Review: ROBIN & BATMAN #2
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Colours: Dustin Nguyen
Letters: Steve Wands
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Robin & Batman #2: Dick Grayson is struggling in his training to be Robin, and the Batman decides the young man needs a break…and takes him to meet the Justice League! In an awe-inspiring moment, he meets the World’s Greatest Heroes…and their sidekicks! Will these teen titans get along?
Robin & Batman #2 continues Jeff Lemire’s retelling of the early days of the Dynamic Duo’s partnership. However, this issue illuminates Alfred’s critical role in this period, even if he doesn’t get a mention in the book’s title.
The issue begins with Dick being harassed by bullies at Gotham Academy. Once the ruffians push dick too far, however, Dick fights back, using the skills he’s been learning from the Batman. Consequently, Alfred has to face the headmaster, having to defend Bruce’s seemingly absentee parenting style.
But it’s the exchange afterwards that drives home the fact that Alfred is becoming as much of a parental figure to the boy – if not more so. Sensing Alfred’s disapproval, Dick apologizes for fighting back against the bullies. But Alfred quickly dispels the idea that he’s disappointed with a simple, “Well, they did start it”.
Alfred also gives Dick a new journal – one with a lock. Alfred then admits that Bruce was wrong to invade Dick’s privacy, but that it was an inept attempt to show Dick that he cared. He explains, “He just has a very hard time with such things”. Alfred knows all to well that Batman’s true weakness is his inability to deal with others on an emotional level.
This story happens to fall on Dick’s birthday, and Batman has a fantastic surprise for his ward. He takes Dick on a trip to the Justice League satellite, where Dick not only gets to meet Bruce’s teammates in the Justice League, but also their sidekicks. That’s right. In Robin & Batman #2, Jeff Lemire treats us to his version of the first mission of the Teen Titans.
First, I have to say that seeing this version of the League was a treat for me. As a child of the 70s, this is the Justice League that’s most iconic for me. And Dustin Nguyen shows them all in their 70s era costumes. By the way, I would really love to see Firestorm return to the ranks of the League.
The Teen Titans are mostly in their original costumes as well. Except Donna, like Dick, has received a modernized look with long pants. But they’re still close enough to their original looks that the group looks fantastic as a whole.
While the League is away on a mission, leaving Hawkman to chaperone. Robin masterminds a plan for them to sneak out and take on some crimefighting missions unsupervised by the older heroes. One might think that Batman would be upset by this excursion, but it actually allows Dick to fulfill the mission Batman assigned to him – to observe the other sidekicks and determine their weaknesses.
This leads to a powerful confrontation between Alfred and Bruce. Alfred is pleased to see Dick delighted with the wonder of having met Superman and the other heroes, and to have made new friends. But he is immediately horrified when Bruce debriefs Dick on the other kids’ vulnerabilities. Alfred is completely disgusted that Bruce couldn’t just let Dick be a kid. Alfred asks, “They are children. Children like him. Why can’t you just let him have that?”.
Bruce’s response is a cold, “I never did. Why should he?”. This elicits probably the strongest reproach ever from Alfred, a simple “You bastard”. But as cold as Bruce’s response is, it illuminates what is possibly the darkest tragedy of the Batman. The death of his parents robbed Bruce of his own childhood. And despite Alfred’s best efforts, Bruce has never quite recovered from this. Consequently, this has left him ill-equipped to give Dick the upbringing he needs and deserves. I am sure that Alfred understands this, but he can be forgiven his visceral reaction to the cold-bloodedness of Bruce’s attitude.
Robin & Batman #2 is pretty damn near a perfect issue. The only thing that I would change about this book, is I would have like to see Dick in the classic outfit, short pants, pixie boots, and all – or at least the version featured last issue. But that’s a fairly minor quibble.
Having read his superb Black Hammer titles and other titles, I have come to expect a lot from a Jeff Lemire title. With Robin & Batman #2, Lemire has again proven his skill as a writer. And Dustin Nguyen’s artwork is amazing as always. I would absolutely love to see Lemire and Nguyen on a sequel series starring the original Teen Titans.