Thursday, August 7, 2008

Robin #176 Review

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciller: Joe Bennett

Unlike both the Nightwing and Detective Comics "R.I.P." storylines, the current Robin storyline has been developing the "R.I.P." arc. Last month's issue was extremely strong, digging into the feelings that Robin has about Batman losing his mind and really making plausible that Batman may, in fact, have gone insane, and that Robin is now in the unenviable position of having to take Batman down.

This issue isn't quite as strong as last month's and doesn't have quite as much to say about Robin and his relationship to Batman, but it is still a strong issue. What we learn more about, though, is how Spoiler is finding herself torn between Batman and Robin. Batman asked Spoiler not to help Robin after what Batman presumably thought to be some sort of inevitable breakdown. Spoiler is Robin's ex-girlfriend, and was thought to be dead for over a year, comic time. Robin is already angry with her because she faked her death, and her hiding Batman's secret creates even more tension between them. Since Spoiler is both extremely loyal to Batman and obviously in love with Robin, there are a great number of dramatic possibilities here that I hope they continue to explore.

The plot of this issue revolves around a picture of Batman, crazy, that has apparently been circulating among the criminals of Gotham. One can tell he is crazy because he is yelling and has a lot of stubble. One would think that, because Batman is currently dressed in a technicolor batsuit based on that of the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, that the wacky suit would be more evidence that Batman has lost his mind, but presumably whoever took the picture was only interested in the stubble. However, Batman certainly looks pretty crazy in the photograph, and when Spoiler finds it, she hides it from Robin because Batman warned her "something was about to happen" and asked her to help keep it from Robin.

Batman is acting even crazier than ever, and has been for a long time. He hasn't been using his contacts to investigate the Black Glove for exactly forty-nine days, which was the exact amount of time he spent in the cave at Nanda Parbat. That's a little crazy. Moreover, if he hasn't been investigating the Black Glove like he claims to have been doing for seven weeks, what exactly has he been up to? Apparently, he was so convinced he was going to lose his mind or have something else happen that he felt the need to tell Spoiler to hinder Robin in helping and believed that Robin would have to carry on without him. The madness that is overtaking Batman is being very well developed here, while also keeping us interested in what exactly has been going on.

There are some well-written scenes with Tim and Dick, and their relationship (which has never been very well developed) has been getting some attention. There's a rather ominous scene in which Dick gives Tim a voice-activated self-destruct mask. Would you really want to wear a mask, or any other article of clothing, that can self-destruct? That seems like a very, very bad idea, and I hope they don't use the device to blind Tim or something because that would be an especially silly way of injuring a major character.

This issue doesn't develop the R.I.P. arc or themes as much as the last issue. However, it is still a strong comic book, giving us more insight into the relationships of Batman, Robin and Spoiler that will prove very important in the coming confrontation of Batman and Robin.

B+

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