At a glance, it would be safe to assume that “We Are Robin” #1 wasn’t a “new” book per se; after all, there have been a fair number of “Robin” comics over the years. However, where Lee Bermejo, Jorge Corona and Rob Haynes take this iteration of the title is certainly a different path than before, as a whole new round of Robins prepares to add a new member to their midst.
Bermejo places Duke Thomas at the center of “We Are Robin” #1; he’s the young man from the “Batman: Endgame” storyline whose parents were infected by the Joker virus and are currently MIA. Currently, he’s being shuffled from one foster home to the next, getting assaulted at local parks and trying to track down leads on his missing parents. Bermejo doesn’t portray Duke as a victim, something that would be easy considering what the character is going through. Rather, he’s someone who’s athletic enough to hold his own against a group of angry peers and who isn’t willing to put up with manipulative foster parents who are just in it for the money and free labor. Instead, Duke continually breaks free of what’s trying to hold him down, bursting with energy and intelligence.
All of this is important for two reasons. First, it establishes him right off the bat as someone who’s extremely capable and worth cheering on; life has given him lemons and he’s fashioned a catapult to launch them right back to the sender. Second, it means that, when the group of young men and women who have formed their own society of Robins target him as a possible new member, doing so is a smart decision on their part. We barely get to see the rest of the Robins this issue, but it’s clear that’s going to change in issue #2. It’s a reasonable decision; Duke is our gateway character into their world, and we’ll see it through his eyes over the upcoming issues.
Bermejo sets a lot of “We Are Robin” #1 in the underground of Gotham, both figuratively and literally. This has some real potential, especially if the heroes of this title are in the thick of the part of the city where the forgotten and discarded citizens have gone. For the moment, though, it comes off a little stereotypical, with a central figure inciting the masses to come to listen to their leader. Over time, this may well grow into something stronger, but it’s not quite there yet.
Corona draws “We Are Robin” #1 off of breakdowns from Haynes. The end result is a book that feels like a slightly more energetic and explosive version of Kevin O’Neill’s art. Corona’s figures are very angular, with he and Haynes often putting Duke into jumping positions (like at the top of page 4) where his legs are in hairpin, tight angles. It’s a neat look; after having his shins and feet fold up under his thighs at the top of the page, it feels like they’re almost spring-loaded when they explode into a full extension in the next panel.
The expressions on Corona’s characters are telling in “We Are Robin” #1. Look at page 8 for a perfect example, from the slightly incredulous look on Dr. Thompkins’ face as she addresses Duke to the vaguely amused sneer on the police officer sauntering down the hall. The faces are fluid and bring a lot of Bermejo’s script to life; the side-eye that Duke gives his latest foster mother at the top of page 13 says far more about his feelings than the narration box could have ever given us. Khary Randolph tackles the epilogue of “We Are Robin” #1 and the style change works as we get a different perspective from a different character. With a limited color palette from Emilio Lopez, it makes that final panel sync up with Bermejo’s script perfectly, exploding forth its revelation on what’s behind the door.
“We Are Robin” #1 is a good first issue; it re-introduces Duke Thomas and makes him a capable hero-in-training, as well as brings to life the idea of a whole round of Robins operating on the streets of Gotham. So far, there’s more than enough here to bring readers back for a second issue. Bermejo, Corona and Haynes have created a new take on an old character, and it works.