Batman vs. Robin #1 Review: A Ridiculous and Rewarding Rivalry
Unlike any character before or after him, Batman has provided a distinct lens through which to view the DC universe. As much as the caped crusader has been at the center of his own incredibly specific and noir-tinged solo stories, there’s a never ending sense of novelty in seeing him deal with existing in a universe of gods, monsters, and magic. That novelty feels at the forefront of Batman vs. Robin, a new miniseries retreading the dysfunctional dynamic between Batman and his son, Damian Wayne. Assuming this first issue is any indication, the team behind Batman vs. Robin #1 have crafted a dramatic and gleefully fun rivalry that could shake up the larger DC mythos in the process.
As the title suggests, Batman vs. Robin opens with the reunion of Bruce and Damian – as well as their apparent reunion with their long-dead butler, Alfred Pennyworth. Given the status quo established by the past few years of comics, it’s clear that this reunion probably isn’t what it seems and discovering what it really is will take Bruce on an unexpected and mystical adventure.
Revealing any more details would harm to what Batman vs. Robin has in store, with the issue zigzagging from plot twist to plot twist with reckless abandon. In any other context, that fluctuation might be off-putting or downright derailing, but Mark Waid’s script grounds everything in the respectable sort of reality check that only Batman can provide. At the same time, Waid’s narrative isn’t afraid to let the proceedings get genuinely ridiculous, in ways that are satisfying to long-standing fans of both Batman and the entire DC landscape. This is especially the case in the issue’s central fight scene, which contains some of the wackiest and most strangely practical uses of items in the Batcave I’ve ever seen.
At the center of it all, Waid’s script does an excellent occupation of crafting Bruce and Damian’s dynamic, carrying the torch of what was previously set up by Tom Lord in Batman and Joshua Williamson in Robin. The approach Waid takes is largely accessible for readers who haven’t been keeping up with those earlier series, as it scratches enough of an itch of recognizable family chaos. The script also excels when dealing with Bruce’s renewed guilt over Alfred’s death, which plays out in a tender, but straightforward fashion throughout the issue. On the off chance that any one of these elements didn’t work, the entire narrative would easily fall apart, so it’s all the more admirable (albeit unsurprising) to see Waid’s script excel.
What also excels in some creative ways is Mahmud Asrar’s art, which shines through the entirety of the issue. Nearly every panel is filled with the playful kineticism and sense of dimension that were abundantly present on his fantasy-tinged projects like Lord Conan and Excalibur, making both the biggest motion of action and the quietest touch of a finger feel mesmerizing. Jordie Bellaire’s variety work is as excellent as ever, particularly with some stellar uses of blues and purples that define the entire space. Steve Wands’ lettering is snappy and straightforward, allowing the wackier or more otherworldly elements of the story to really shine.
The concept and larger ramifications of Batman vs. Robin are undoubtedly cool – but through this issue’s creative team, they become pretty great. This first installment distils so a lot of what is successful about Batman comics (and, honestly, DC Comics itself), delivering a character-driven, unapologetically cool rivalry that pops off the page. Batman vs. Robin #1 will leave you wanting more, in the best possible way.