Chalk up another hit for Peter Tomasi, who’s been solid during his time with B&R. Annual #2 is one of the best issues of the series and well worth the price. Tomasi’s always been at his best when he’s tugging at our heart strings and this issue is no different, a solid story with Dick Grayson back as Robin. A look into his first adventure as The Boy Wonder that ties in with Damian is the perfect medicine while we cope with the “Batman and ______” storyline and the aftermath of Damian’s death.
The opening scene between Dick and Damian is brief but just what we need to remind us of why they’ve became one of the best relationships produced from The New 52. The dialogue between the pair is always organic and feels natural. As always it’s a joy to listen Dick try to teach Damian a worthwhile lesson only to hear the young Robin sneer as he makes one cocky wisecrack after another.
Tomasi goes on to nail the characterization and personality of young Dick Grayson, who is always a great bet for fan appeal. Because of the New 52 continuity the timeline is a little different than I think most of us are used to so Dick is sixteen years old when he starts out as Robin, as opposed to younger. Nonetheless we all empathize with his eagerness and anticipation as we watch him hilariously sit in school waiting for the bell to ring.
The story is the classic sidekick story who has to prove himself to gain the recognition of the boss, but it’s done perfectly, we can feel Bruce’s apprehension and hesitation to let Dick assist him on a journey he only imagined himself embarking upon. The story has a heartfelt ending that gives the Bat family a sense of optimism, something that hasn’t been present since the death of Damian.
Another great thing about this issue is the art, minus a couple facial mishaps here and there, Mahnke does a phenomenal job filling in for Patrick Gleason. He draws Dick especially well, the acrobatic and fluid motions Dick does on a daily basis can’t be easy to draw, but Mahnke does it brilliantly.
There are not many problems with this issue, the only one would be with the villain of this story. It’s a random villain who holds no significance to us so we never feel Dick is ever in any danger his first time. Of course we are not expecting his first night out to be crazy but if it were one of the notable villains say, The Riddler or The Penguin it might have propelled an already solid story.
If you missed the optimistic, family tone that has been missing since Damian’s death then this issue is for you. The dialogue and storytelling is as solid as ever and the addition of Mahnke’s artwork makes this annual one of the best in recent DC history. The New 52 hasn’t done much to elaborate on Dick’s time as Robin but this issue does just that admirably. With Dick’s future ominously up in the air, thanks to recent events of “Forever Evil”, we are given an issue that highlights all his strengths. We see him act as a lovable veteran trying to help Damian cope with his new responsibilities, and as a young kid trying to earn the respect of Bruce.
Annual #2 is a perfect stand alone issue and perfect for anyone who misses Damian Wayne and the Bruce and Dick relationship. If you haven’t already, I suggest you buy this now, it’s worth the price of admission.