105-coverDamian Wayne has had what you might call an unusual childhood. His mother, Talia al Ghul, trained him to lead the League of Assassins. Then his father, Bruce Wayne, helped him find a better path, and Damian took up the mantle of Robin. Until he got killed. And then resurrected by Batman. It’s been quite the ride.

Now, Damian’s back in the Robin mask, and he’s thinking about redemption. He may still be a kid, but he’s got a lot to answer for. When he was eight, Damian embarked on the traditional Year of Blood to prove his worthiness as an al Ghul. With a pack of assassins at his command, he pillaged priceless artifacts all over the globe, crushing anyone who got in his way.

Now Damian wants to make things right. With his faithful bat-dragon, Goliath, he will travel the world, returning every artifact he took and trying to help the people he harmed. It won’t be easy: raised to be violent and egotistical, Damian struggles a bit with compassion. And sometimes, it’s as dangerous to return the artifacts as it was to steal them. Not everyone is ready to forgive…especially a young assassin called Nobody, whose father died at Damian’s hands.

If that’s not enough to deal with, the al Ghul family wanted those artifacts for a reason. Damian’s Year of Blood was part of a much bigger planand if he disrupts that plan, the fate of the world may hang in the balance.

This comic starts with a bang and then gets deeper and more interesting as it goes. It weaves together the present, when Damian is trying to atone, and the past, when he committed his crimes. This shows us the significance of each artifact, and we see how even brash, self-aggrandizing present-tense Damian is a big improvement over his ruthless former self. And he’s still improving and learning what it is to not just repair the damage you did but to truly repent.

The flashbacks also help parts of the present story make more sense. For instance, Goliath is, for awhile, a totally unexplained giant red bat creature that Damian rides around. Eventually, though, we learn his backstory. We also get hints about how Batman inspired Damian to turn his back on the League of Assassins, though the focus of this volume is on the Year of Blood and Damian’s atonement for it.

Though it mostly follows Damian, this comic features multiple points of view, including Nobody’s and even Talia al Ghul’s. These help to build tension and establish stakes beyond what our young Robin is aware of. We know that Nobody is out to get him, and why, before he encounters her, and we get hints of the larger al Ghul plan well before Damian confronts it.

Robin:Son of Batman has all the action that a superhero fan could ask for. Robin, Goliath, and Nobody square off against monsters, assassins, and fantastical traps in settings ranging from Egypt to Iceland to South America. Damian has the flashy acrobatic skills one expects from Robin, Nobody packs sonic weapons in her special suit, and Goliath’s wings let them take their fights airborne. But while the violence is frequent, it’s not grotesque; we rarely see effects more gruesome than a couple of knocked-out teeth.

The art is clear and richly detailed. It makes use of a wide range of colors, from the lush greens of tropical settings to the fiery red that heralds a rising demon. One monster’s reality-warping powers are portrayed effectively through waves of psychedelic color. The lighting also supports the story, with bold black shadows adding drama.

Damian himself is drawn with a small build and a round, boyish face, reminding us that despite his smarts and combat prowess, this Robin isn’t even a teenager yet. In keeping with his young age, there is no romance or sexual content in this volume.

For fans of the DC universe, and Robin in particular, this will be a fun read. The irritable, trash-talking young Robin will amuse readers even as he goes on a journey of real redemption.

Robin: Son of Batman, vol. 1: The Year of Blood
by Patrick Gleason
Art by Mick Gray and John Kalisz
ISBN: 9781401261559
DC Comics, 2016

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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