Not every superhero event gets a massive amount of attention – and “Robin War”, an event running through some of the Batman-universe books through December and January, is one of the events that’s gone mostly unremarked. In spite of the fact it didn’t exactly deal with A-list characters, it proved to be one of the most enjoyable crossovers of the last year.
“Robin War” follows a traditional X-Men-style; it’s a crossover bookended by an Alpha and an Omega issue. Over the last few years, DC has expanded the Batman universe, with the various Robins moving to the centre-stage. All four currently star in their own books, which were core to the crossover; Dick Grayson as a secret agent, Jason Todd as the anti-heroic Red Hood, Tim Drake as the genius Red Robin, and Damian Wayne as the current iteration of the character. Meanwhile, in the background, the Robins’ example has inspired a generation of teenage vigilantism. And Batman is out of action (see Scott Snyder’s Batman for why), meaning poor James Gordon is playing the role in a very different way, and gets dragged into this mess.
The core theme of “Robin War” in a nutshell is simple – what does it mean to be a Robin? Although that theme runs through the entire event, it really comes to a head early on, in Grayson #15. The issue opens with the teenage vigilantes declaring, “I am Robin,” then segues to Damian Wayne and the Robins giving their answer:
What follows is an issue in which each of the Robins trains the teenage vigilantes, and offers personal insight into what it means to be Robin. It’s a fascinating plot device, contrasting the different Robins against one another. For Tim Drake, being a Robin is all about investigation. For Jason Todd, being a Robin is all about confidence. For Damian Wayne, being a Robin is all about suffering. But to Dick Grayson, being a Robin is all about one thing: family.
The central plot is tight, with Gotham City passing the so-called ‘Robin Laws’ to crack down on out-of-control teenage vigilantism. From there, the Robins swiftly discover that everything’s been orchestrated by the Court of the Owls, as part of a scheme to get their talons on Dick Grayson. Perhaps the most pleasing side of the event is that not a single beat is missed; every book plays its part, every character has an arc that runs through the event, and some do not emerge unchanged.
Robin: Son of Batman #7 casts a fascinating light upon Damian Wayne, transforming him from a brusque cypher to a character of rich complexity, while firmly rooting the character in the current post-Bruce-Wayne Batman era. Robin War #2, meanwhile, brings matters to a conclusion with a devastating twist that’s sure to change Dick Grayson’s status quo for quite some time. It’s all tremendous character work, making the event truly worthwhile and transformative. The various teams and writers really pull their respective weight; and visually, the artistic choices flow naturally, ensuring there’s a strong sense of continuity between the books.
The three tie-ins, Gotham Academy #13, Red Hood / Arsenal #7, and Teen Titans #15, are of mixed quality; only Gotham Academy #13 is really essential reading, while the other two just find ways to tie into the main event while continuing their ongoing plotlines. Still, again, all three work very nicely into the continuity of the story; it’s been plotted really carefully, although each book keeps its own distinctive character and artistic style.
All in all, “Robin War” is a low-key event that has some major impacts on the Robins. I’d recommend it as one of the more enjoyable superhero crossovers of the last twelve months!