Robin is turning out to be the best ongoing fight comic on the stands thanks to Josh Williamson and Gleb Melnikov’s kung fu fight tournament. It’s also an intriguing look at some younger heroes, some who are brand new and others who are getting a bit more time to shine. Out today is Robin 2021 Annual #1, which adds new layers to some of the most important characters to fight in the tournament. It’s also packed with origin stories, so if you love a good backstory, this book is for you.
This issue opens before the Lazarus Tournament even began with Robin doing some intel work. It may seem odd to delve into backstory this late in the game–Robin has already died more than once in the main book–but this actually serves as a good primer and should get folks digging into the back issues to catch up. That’s because it ties into key elements like Nightwing giving Damian his baton, but also sheds light on new characters like Flatline. Using some hidden tech, Robin reviews a few dossiers on characters and we get to see it first hand through Damian’s eyes.
First up is a backstory on Flatline starting around when she is 10 or so years old. She’s the biggest new edition in the series and it helps define her connection to death. It also helps to understand she’s not evil but living a kind of legacy while also having some troubling family issues. Williamson also ties in Lord Death Man, who is about as goofy as they come, mellowing out the drama with some fun.
Following Flatline’s story are three one-page origins on some interesting albeit less threatening foes in the tournament. Each has an interesting twist complete with some stats like background, abilities, and number of kills. Using a full-body profile image and a few panels to tell their origins, Williamson and artist Roger Cruz are economical and efficient with each.
Ravager and Hawke get the brunt of the pages in the rest of the book, which they certainly deserve since they’ve played a big part in the main Robin series. Both of these add a bit more info that doesn’t feel entirely necessary, but it does fill in some gaps.
Wrapping up the book is an epilogue that ties into a future story, giving the overall book a bit more purpose. So far Williamson has added new layers to the Al’Ghul family with the main book–and the tournament itself–so it’ll be interesting to see how they’re fleshed out further going forward.
Cruz draws a great book with inks by Victor Olazaba and colors by Luis Guerrero. There are 38 pages of content here and every page seems to deliver interesting montaging, dynamic lighting, and fun action. The art is a bit cartoony, which suits the younger characters’ look. Robin’s new-ish costume also looks fabulous throughout.
Troy Peteri letters this issue and he happens to letter the Robin series, too. Similar name title cards and subtle choices like text color or emphasis abound giving the book a little more flair.
Overall Robin 2021 Annual #1 is not a must-read to understand the story in Robin, but it is an entertaining one-shot that adds an interesting backstory and context for the main players in the tournament. If you dig origin stories, don’t pass on Robin 2021 Annual #1.
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