Friday, August 22, 2008

Robin #177 Review

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciller: Freddie Williams II

Robin #177 is the third Robin book in less than a month, which is quite a break-neck pace for a monthy comic. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to be really hurting the books' quality. Curiously, despite clearly tying into R.I.P., it is not advertised as being a part of the R.I.P. story. I can only assume that this story is taking place after the events of R.I.P., given that it is part one of a story called "Search for a Hero", presumably a reference to the retirement of Bruce Wayne at the end of the still unfinished R.I.P. storyline.

One of the nice things about this issue is that we get to see the kind of stories that the Batman franchise is planning to tell in the absense of Batman. Since he is retired, Gotham is beginning to descend into chaos and gang warfare. Now, the heroes that are left are trying to rebuild some sort of order in Gotham, and they are trying to find their place in the post-Batman world. As a premise, this is really quite interesting, and reminds me of World Without a Superman, No Man's Land and House of M. They were extended premises that allowed the writers to explore ideas that they might not otherwise be able to use. I'd be quite happy to see what the authors do with their opporunity to tell stories about what the various members of the bat family do without their leader, and the sorts of shenanigans that the villains get up to.

Here we see a confrontation between two Robins, Jason Todd and Tim Drake. Jason has a plan to consolidate all of the gangs of Gotham, but, as usual, his plan involves many innocent people getting killed. Tim tries to shut him down, but is injured protecting someone from one of Jason's many stray bullets. He is saved by yet a third Robin, Red Robin, a character we have seen only a couple of times before. In the Kingdom Come story, Red Robin was the Dick Grayson of the future, having abandoned his Nightwing persona and returned to serve as a latter-day Robin. In Countdown, Jason Todd himself became Red Robin when he served under a far more violent Batman of another Earth. As I am not hopeful for Nightwing's fate after R.I.P. and Red Robin is clearly not Jason, this is an interesting mystery. Clearly there are other people hoping to take up Robin's mantle, and I look forward to finding out who this new Robin is.

There is also more development of the relationship between Robin and Spoiler. Tim has reached a point where he simply feels so betrayed by Spoiler that he can't even bring himself to talk to her. This is clearly heartbreaking for Spoiler, since she is still in love him, but clearly feels guilty for betraying him twice in the last year. Spoiler is a great character, and I hope they repair the relationship enough that she can still feature as a regular. However, I appreciate the way that Nicieza is reminding the audience that dishonesty, even with noble intentions, has consequences. If they are to repair their relationship, even to return to friendship, there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of meaningful stories to be told.

The ending of the issue is quite interesting. Spoiler apparently hires Scarab, the same assassin hired to kill Tim back in the War Drums story, to kill Tim. Unless Nicieza has completely lost his mind, this is obviously either not really Stephanie or it is some sort of double-cross. However, it is an interesting plot point, and I look forward to it playing out. It shows us that Stephanie will be an important part of the upcoming story arc, and brings in a new level of danger for Robin by bringing in the person who nearly killed him four years ago. It is also good to see there are going to be negative consequences for the money that Robin paid to Penguin last issue.

Overall, then, this is a very good book. It is not as powerful as either of the R.I.P. crossover stories, but lets us know that Nicieza knows what he wants to do with the character after the departure of Batman. It promises not only to be a worthwhile story in itself, but promises that the Batman franchise has some interesting stories to tell about Gotham after Batman.

B

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