The Company That You Keep: Reviewing ‘Robin & Batman’ #2
by Scott Redmond
‘Robin & Batman’ continues to take a deep character-focused look at the early days of the dynamic duo through a modern lens, giving the young Robin a deeper focus this time. This gorgeous story balances the world of light and dark perfectly as some bright fun guest stars show up that add so much more to the story. At its heart, this is the story of two individuals dealing with similar traumas in different ways as they struggle to come to a place where they can thrive together.
After a first issue that heavily showcased the dysfunctional beginning relationship between DC Comics dynamic duo, Robin & Batman #2 heavily centers its focus on Dick Grayson’s Robin in a very interesting way.
With this three-issue series, Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen are putting their unique sort of stamp on the early days of Batman and Robin, in a way that mines from the decades of the character’s existence but with a slightly more modern lean. By taking Batman almost fully out of the picture in this issue, they give us a chance to get to know their young version of Grayson even better. At the same time, we get a lot of a very conflicted Alfred who knows that Bruce Wayne is a good man but is a flawed and broken man that in some ways is dragging his young ward down the same broken path.
It’s a very nice unexpected move to bring the early Teen Titans into this story, as it allows for Grayson to bounce off people who are his age and in a similar position to him. Lemire does a great job of hitting the general character traits of each of these characters that we know so well, showing shades of who they will become as adults one day. They all get some updated looks from Nguyen that sort of mix together elements of the old-school youthful looks and something closer to what their costumes might look like if they had debuted today.
Anytime there are stories about heroes the concept of duality can be a heavy theme that lingers, and that is the case here. We see it play out in numerous aspects from the aforementioned issues between Batman and Robin and Alfred’s concerns as well as ultimately between the brief appearance of the Justice League and surrounding all of the young sidekicks. Bright hero stuff and darker heavier emotional tolls are shown everywhere and are perfectly accentuated by Nguyen’s artwork.
His watercolor coloring style and the way he draws characters and the world perfectly fits in that space where light and dark are clashing but also merging together to create something more balanced. We see this a lot in the JLA satellite pages where all the backgrounds are very heavily stark white, compared to the darker Batcave and some other areas where the teens find themselves.
This entire issue is pretty fun, but honestly the little sort of mini-stories we get in the middle showcasing the various missions the teens sneak out to tackle, depicted as full double-page spreads, are some of the most fun. Not only because Nguyen brings the action to life beautifully, dropping in all sorts of cameos and easter eggs, but because we get to see glimpses of the leader we know Dick Grayson will become emerging. Donna Troy/Wonder Girl even comments on it.
In the modern era, the idea that Batman has a lot of contingencies planned out in order to defeat any of his allies should they turn evil is commonplace. That’s not to say it’s not a divisive story element, as a lot of people are not fans of this. Personally, while I don’t support the idea in some regards I can see the logic of it all since we have lived through a couple of decades where stories of Superman going rogue/evil are a dime a dozen.
I bring this up to say that the twist that is thrown in at the climax of this issue between Batman and Robin is in this same vein, and while it is awful in one regard it fits the story very well that this is a younger still very broken Bruce who is, unfortunately, transferring a lot of his own issues to his new son. Surely the upcoming final issue will tackle some of this issue, but honestly, it would be cool if this was a universe that we could play in a bit longer to see some of these story beats given more room to breathe long-term.
Steve Wands brings a lot of the same energy as Nguyen’s artwork to the lettering, especially the very personal caption boxes that belong to Robin. There are some neat things done here such as slight differences in the dialogue font between the adults and the kids, really hitting home how kids and adults have different tones and ways that they express themselves. SFX helps a lot with experiencing things better in comics and they tend to alternate between smaller ones or the type that dominates a scene.
Here we get both, and I’m very much a fan of the big bold SFX that dominates and really helps you hear whatever is supposed to happen. A giant ‘Fwash’ for the JLA teleporter is perfect, especially since each subsequent use of it across the montage pages is different in color so it’s never just the same thing repeated.
Robin & Batman #2 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.