Robin #4 by Joshua Williamson and Jorge Corona is the latest fantastic entry in a series that has checked all the boxes of what a modern superhero solo book should be: it’s got a killer premise, a fantastic cast of characters, and a thematic core worthy of one of the DC universe’s most historically underserved marquee characters.
SPOILERS AHEAD for Robin #4!
After his much-awaited and eventful meeting with Connor Hawke in the last issue, Damian found himself beaten in battle and left (literally) out to sea, with his life hanging in the balance. Eventually, Damian awakes and realizes he is no longer on Lazarus Island, but rather on the secret hideout of his father — the demon himself, Ra’s Al Ghul.
To say that the dynamic is tense is a massive understatement. Indeed, Damian tries to kill his grandfather straight away, only to realize he can’t do much of anything thanks to his injuries suffered at the hands of Connor Hawke. This forces Damian and Ra’s to engage in something even harder than a fight to the death: they have to talk to one another.
It turns out that Ra’s knows all about this tournament, and also happens to be very knowledgeable about the League of Lazarus itself – though he still produces some hand waving when asked how they managed to stay under the radar for such a long time. He ominously warns Damian that the tournament will only lead to trouble and urgently advises him to avoid it at all costs. This seems unlikely given Damian’s stubborn insistence on winning the thing, and it adds some nice layers of mystery as to what really may be going on behind the scenes.
Beyond being just as entertaining as I’ve come to expect, this issue works especially well for me because of how incisively it once again illuminates an aspect of Damian’s central dilemma and underscores the main themes of the series.
Ra’s Al Ghul may be a deliciously eccentric supervillain that embodies a past that Damian resents, but he’s also Damian’s grandfather. This relationship is reflected in all of its complexity here, especially in a rather touching scene where Ra’s tells the story of his inspiration to take on (his version of) saving the world.
“You feel like the world is yours to protect,” he tells Damian. “And you will not find peace until you do so. That is your birthright. And that is your burden.”
Sure sounds like another father figure in Damian’s life, doesn’t it?
Jorge Corona steps into the artist’s chair here for the first time on the series, and he doesn’t miss a beat fitting right into the style already established by the earlier entries.
The color palettes on the exotic islands are rich and lush, the characters look consistent with other issues, and there’s still a great use of special panels and stylized touches throughout. The introductory page rendered in the style of a manga Damian is reading (and also acknowledging the series’ pop culture influences) is a wonderfully creative touch that exemplifies how the series has managed to keep itself a level above your standard superhero monthly.
Another highlight here is the character design of Ra’s Al Ghul himself. While he is often a character that is quite stoic and menacing, Joshua Williams gives him a different feel here, and Corona’s art smartly follows the suit. Corona ditches the cape and goatee in favor of a simple flowy shirt and pants with a long ponytail and full beard. The result is a Ra’s who is much more yoga instructor than an international criminal mastermind, but it works surprisingly well in this more paired down and intimate setting.
Robin #4 keeps the quality of the series high and continues to find new angles to explore Damian’s character, all while building up excitement for the fireworks that are sure to come now that the tournament is finally set to begin. After another especially juicy cliffhanger, this seemingly contained setting is wide open, and I’m eager to see what it has in store.
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