Robin makes sure to always showcase the fact that one of the greatest things the Batman line has going for it is the depth of characters who have intricate and powerful relationships with one another. Often the ones that can get to you the most and break you down, are those that you love, which the Robins past and present find out in this powerful, beautiful, and fun issue.
With the kicking off of the Infinite Frontier era, there have been a great number of really awesome plotlines and moments across the Batman/Gotham line of books (some of them kicking off their new directions/starts before the new initiative). While those plots and stories are great in their own unique ways with a bevy of truly amazing and varied gorgeous art styles to them, there is one aspect that stands above it all in this new era: family connections.
Previously the members of Batman’s extended family have teamed up for some of the big events, and often it leads to rifts and them at each other’s proverbial (and sometimes literal) throats over issues. With the changes of Dark Night: Death Metal brought in regard to restoring all continuity lost, all across the line there has been an effort to really highlight and showcase how deep the relationships are between the varied characters, especially those that are actually and basically the children of Batman.
With Robin #5 we get a whole lot more of that as the other previous (and one still current) Robins come after Damian Wayne in order to save or stop him from his current mission. Often when a series takes a little detour from the main event of the series, it can often slow the overall stories down or feel off in some way. These two issues of Damian dealing with two aspects of his family have been fantastic and really hit home how deep these characters are, while the issues still kept a close eye on the Lazarus tournament stuff at the same time.
Joshua Williamson really gets these characters and puts it all out there as Damian gets into their heads and breaks them all down during their chase to capture him. Each of the characters that held the Robin mantle are different, and this makes sure to really hit home how they are different and what makes them the same as well. Despite the thorny nature of some of the things being thrown at one another during this really fun chase scene, none of it feels painful because they truly are a bunch of siblings who know just how to push each other’s buttons while caring deeply for one another.
Fighting tournaments are a fun thing to watch in fiction and it’s going to be really fun to see the full-on fight begin next issue, but this book is anchored by the human element. Damian Wayne was a young man trapped between multiple worlds and factions who has had to deal with a lot over his few short years on this planet.
Often some write him where his arrogant confidence comes off as just him being brash and harsh, but Williamson focuses on the better read that he’s very much connected to and cares for his Bat-family and while he’s confident much of that arrogance is a shield. Especially now when he needs that shield to make it through the mission that he’s on with the Lazarus tournament. The moment between Dick Grayson and Damian alone makes this issue truly fantastic, but everything else around it is just awesome.
Gleb Melnikov returns to art alongside Luis Guerrero and Troy Peteri on colors and letters respectively still. All that fun energy mentioned before comes in part from the overall plot and character moments but a ton of that energy comes from the artwork itself. Melnikov has just such a fun and energetic style that works whether it’s for the tournament style pages or just the more heartfelt Robin heart-to-heart pages.
One of the things that I really like with this series is the use of close-up panels, that focus in on parts of the action that sometimes are just shots of a foot in motion for running or a chain grabbing a sword or only part of a character’s face as they drop some line of dialogue. It’s quite different and really utilizes the page space to do something different. Sure, much could be accomplished by having a full page of full panels with all the same words being said and some of the same action on display, but there is just something that makes it work to go this route and really bring us in close to what is happening.
This issue is almost all at night but one wouldn’t know that because of how well Guerrero is able to make the issue bold and bright at the same time as making it dark and shadowy. It helps that these characters have such bright colorful costumes and the Lazarus group’s magical energy is all the same mystical green as the Lazarus pits themselves. At the same time, there are some great panels where the color is pulled back and the shadows take over, and we get some really distinctive shots of a silhouette of Damian in motion or pulling off one of his father’s patented hiding in the shadows acts.
Not only does Peteri nail down the dialogue and making sure it fits and flows well through the pages per usual, but there are also some really stand-out uses of bigger and different colored font uses to emphasize parts of that dialogue. From Ravager talking about killing someone to Red Hood dropping that they know about the death tournament to Robin just yelling his name in the shape of the book’s logo. All great and adds more flavor to everything. One of the best is probably Red Hoods’ dropping of the words “rooftop race” on one of the really action-packed double-page spreads.
This team is really nailing it with the book and if this deep connection and love for the Batline continues, it really makes one quite intrigued to see what Williamson will bring to the main Batman series later this year when he begins writing that too.
Robin #5 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.