December’s “Robin War” wraps up with the New Year, as Tom King, Khary Randolph, Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Steve Pugh, Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens bring us through some big character moments. While there are parts that feel a little rushed, the overall conclusion is good, as we get a story about those willing to step up in the face of adversity.
The best thing about “Robin War” #2 is how King is able to weave the basic idea — a hero as someone who thinks of others’ safety over their own — throughout the book into numerous characters without it feeling tired or stale. King bookends the comic with scenes involving characters decrying their Robin status, with good effect. Taylor’s “I’m not Robin” at the start is understandable — we’re simultaneously seeing all of the near-misses and hard times that all of the Robin wannabes went through — and his journey to accepting his Robin status never pushes too far onto the center stage.
As for the bookend, it’s someone else saying that same statement, but — in this case — the turncoat throws away the Robin identity as part of a larger game. It’s a decision we see throughout “Robin War” #2: deciding when or when not to be a Robin based on how it will affect others. The turncoat’s decision promises to be followed up in one of the parent titles of “Robin War,” and hopefully it won’t be quickly swept under the rug. It’s a choice that puts the turncoat squarely on the side of the bad guys, but in a place where additional good can and will still be done.
Some of the ripples feel a little out of the blue, though. The largest example is shift in the cast of “We Are Robin” implied in “Robin War” #2, but — while the catalyst for how King makes this character quit makes sense — it doesn’t feel quite as developed as it should have been in the earlier chapters; with the later chapters having flagged a bit, those would have been good spots to get a stronger lead-in.
With five artists providing pencils, there’s unfortunately no visual consistency in “Robin War” #2. The book looks its best in the sequences helmed by Martinez and Fernandez; the duo work well together, with strong and clean character designs by Martinez and slick inks from Fernandez. It reminds me a bit of Mikel Janin’s work on “Grayson,” and having this duo tackle the Dick Grayson sequences was smart. It’s also worth noting that the other artists all have their own strengths they bring to the book, but it’s jarring to have some pages drawn in the ragged, hyper-detailed art from Di Giandomenico next to the much blockier, more iconic art from McDaniel and Owens, or the slightly (and consistently and deliberately) distended art from Randolph. If there’s one artist I’d really like to see back again, though, it’s Pugh. His depiction of the Court of Owls is genuinely unsettling, with the dark eyeholes in their masks looking creepily vacant.
After a rough second half of the crossover, “Robin War” #2 stepped up the game for a good finale. With promises of real consequences and the ongoing menace of the Court of Owls, it’s been an overall successful story, one that upped the overall profile of the secondary group of Batman titles. If these new elements in play can stick around, “Robin War” will be remembered for some time to come.