As the title indicates, Robin returns to the DC Universe in “Robin Rises: Alpha” #1, written by Peter J. Tomasi and drawn by Andy Kubert. Sporting ink work from Jonathan Glapion throughout most of the issue, the final two pages — a double-page spread — are inked by Kubert. The entire issue is colored by Brad Anderson and lettered by Dezi Sienty, as everyone returns from Apokolips, several of them the worse for wear.
A year-and-a-half in the making, “Robin Rises: Alpha” #1 would be certain to bring smiles to the faces of Damian Wayne if it hadn’t been DC Comics’ worst-kept secret of 2014. House ads in recent comic books depicted Damian punching Darkseid’s progeny, Kalibak, in the face. This is a feat that most characters in the DC Universe would be hard-pressed to accomplish, regardless of power set, if they were as mortally-challenged as Damian. Instead, the story just plods along, hitting story beats as though checking off a list (like giving Bat-Cow a chance to make a difference in the struggle) before establishing a new status quo.
Beyond merely punching Kalibak in the face, “Robin Rises: Alpha” #1 is filled with convenience, as Alfred puts down his tea cup, straightens his tie and picks up a Rob Liefeld-worthy blaster in order to welcome the Bat-family upon their return from Apokolips. Yes, Kalibak is an atypical foe for the Bat-family, but for every one of them to grab guns is a leap in the story that lacks inspiration. The ends justify the means, as Tomasi’s choice keeps everyone alive throughout the issue, but seems incongruous with the legend of a hero so brutally scarred by the impact of firearms. Perhaps Tomasi is making the point that Batman will go to the end of his own sanity to rescue his son (certainly the case for attacking Apokolips), but it falls short.
Andy Kubert’s art also falls short of expectations. Fuzzy lines on the exteriors of the characters, uneven figure appearances, lackluster backgrounds and measured story convenience make the art as uninspired as the story it tells. Kubert and Glapion are masterful creators individually, but coupled here, the artwork is hurried and unpolished. Anderson adding some visual impact to “Robin Rises: Alpha” #1 through his colors, but the story just needs more than the visuals provide. Kubert pulls back short of making this wildly over-the-top, which would be more impactful and certainly feel less prescribed.
Now that Damian has returned, I’m much more interested in the aftermath of this tale than “Robin Rises: Alpha” #1 itself. Some revelations are made, but quite honestly, were deflated by spoilers and DC’s own promotional department. With Damian returned, how do Tomasi and company keep the title fresh and the partnership on track? The potential for future tales planned in “Robin Rises: Alpha” #1 is immense, but then again, so was the tale of Batman’s quest for his son.