Jeffrey Brown sets Batman and Robin (Damian Wayne in this iteration) in an everyday, real-world setting to hilarious and heartwarming effect in this fresh take on the world of Gotham.
The story opens on Batman and Robin’s nighttime surveillance. When Robin mistakes a couple locked out of their car for criminals and attacks them, a frustrated Bruce Wayne tells his son he needs to work on his patience and observation skills. To help him with that, he takes Damian out of his fancy private school and enrolls him in Gotham Metro Academy.
Howard, a Black boy who loves comics and superheroes, is one of the most well-liked kids at Gotham Metro and with good reason: he’s friendly and caring, he’s smart, and he’s the most gifted athlete in the school. Kind kid that he is, he takes Damian under his wing, but Damian, who sees Howard as a competitor, is immediately suspicious and acts like a jerk.
In alternating viewpoints signaled to the reader with different colored narration boxes, Damian and Howard tell the story as they see it: Damian thinks Howard is out to get him, and Howard doesn’t understand why the new kid doesn’t like him. In a nice contrast to the usual brooding Dark Knight, Batman is played for comic relief. When he over-analyzes a simple crime and lands himself in trouble, Damian and Howard must put their differences aside and learn to work together.
A diverse group of good-natured kids help ground Gotham Metro in a realistic middle-school setting, with lots of casual chat and banter packed into the smaller format book. Most pages are uniform with six panels, but the clean lines prevent the detail-filled artwork from feeling cluttered, and those details show readers an ordinary side of Gotham City that we rarely see. The art has a classic comic feel in that Batman and Robin’s costumes are in the brighter, pre-1990s blue/gray and red/yellow, with a colorful palette in what appears to be water color giving it a soft, fresh look.
As he did in his Jedi Academy series, Brown makes it easy for readers to imagine extraordinary heroes in ordinary circumstances. Just as you’d expect, Batman is kind of awkward when it comes to dad stuff, and Damian, who can be insufferable in the DC canon, is really just a regular insecure kid. Howard is a great addition to the team. Share this title with kids who like their superheroes with a good dose of humor!
Batman and Robin and Howard
By Jeffrey Brown
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)
Character Representation: Black