I really enjoyed last month’s issue and thought it was the best of the series so far. The one unresolved plot thread, however, is Robin’s disappearance while lost in time during his time-traveling adventure with Supergirl. This issue is a one-shot meant to solve what happened to Robin and have Batman and Superman chase him down to save him. Is this single episode worth your time, though? Let’s look.
Overall, I think it’s a pretty entertaining problem, as it certainly has a few upsides. In fact, I think this problem is off to a pretty good start. We find Robin in the past where he works alone on a detective case. Robin joined a circus and people blamed the circus animals for killing circus staff. It’s a fun premise, and after the non-stop chaotic action during the Devil Nezha arc, it’s nice to be able to relax with a problem where the stakes aren’t quite as high and Robin takes center stage. .
However, reading this comic, I ask myself more and more questions. For example, how does Robin end up working for this circus? Sure, he’s a circus kid, but why would this particular circus hire him if he won’t even reveal his identity to them? Then, just a few pages into the issue, Batman and Superman appear in the circus out of nowhere. While Dick and Bruce’s reunion is very healthy and it’s nice to see how happy they are to have reunited, I wonder why no one is watching these two random strangers in weird outfits showing up at the circus, perform acts, and walk around the circus grounds. But those aren’t the most problematic elements of the comic.
I think the biggest flaw with this issue is that it feels pretty rushed. See, this problem is not about Batman and Superman having to find Dick. In fact, it completely misses that and instead gives us the most boring and rushed explanation of how they manage to find Robin. It’s literally like this: in one panel they are still in the present day, having defeated Nezha, and in the next they have already found Robin. There’s absolutely no challenge here, and the way it all plays out is far too convenient and easy. The more I think about it, the more the story begins to fall apart.
Another thing that I think isn’t executed well is the fact that we’re introduced to a whole bunch of new circus characters. Robin describes a number of them and says their names, but immediately after their introductions they are all left behind and forgotten. Other than the assailant and a few victims connected to the detective’s central case, none of these characters actually play a part in this story. It’s not even like they could all be suspect, because they’re just never developed as characters. They simply exist in the background, yet their combined intros take up two whole pages!
Also, for a story that’s supposed to have a mystery and a detective case at its core, there’s actually hardly any detective work or mystery development. We see Robin do a bit of detecting towards the start, then he hangs out with Batman and Superman, then he just jumps to the conclusion/revelation and that’s it. As a crime novel, this comic fails, and that’s a shame because it’s obvious that’s what this comic is trying to be. Maybe if there were more pages available to the creative team or if they fleshed out this story over two issues (maybe even three), the story could have breathed more; Robin would have truly shone as the one who solved the mystery; and Batman and Superman would have actually had something to do because there would have been more time to show how they manage to find Robin instead of just warping into his exact location.
That said, I still appreciate that this series gives hope. These days, a lot of people seem to think that the DC Universe is supposed to be the darkest universe, while the Marvel Universe is supposed to be the funniest and most promising. The thing is, as many longtime readers know, DC is meant to be synonymous with hope and optimism. For all its flaws, this issue – and this series – does the job right. The book feels like a throwback to a more classic, upbeat tone, and besides Mora’s illustrations, that’s the main reason I still buy the monthly issues. I just hope the quality of storytelling increases. I know Waid can do it – it’s time he upped the ante.
As for art, Mora is absent from this issue. But fear not, because not only will Mora return next month to illustrate the second arc, but the replacement artist for this issue is none other than Travis Moore. His art is very clean and cohesive. It’s not as detailed as Mora’s art, but there’s a good balance between background detail and foreground characters. Additionally, Moore draws Dick Grayson as a handsome young man with a friendly attitude, and there’s real joy in these panels because of the way Dick interacts with others and his surroundings. The layouts are easy on the eye and the panels form a sequence that makes sense and is easy to follow.
What’s also worth noting is that there are hardly any fights in this comic. The action can be found in the stunts Robin and Batman perform in the circus, as well as the superheroes Robin, Batman, and Superman pull off as they save people and animals when shit hits the fan. Finally, to maintain a level of aesthetic cohesion, Tamra Bonvillain – who is a frequent collaborator of Dan Mora and has colored the entire series thus far – is also coloring this issue. Her colors are always smooth and layered and her different hues and tones blend really well. Even though the pencils are drawn by a different artist, thanks to Bonvillain’s colors, it still looks very much like a problem of Batman/Superman: the best in the world, and at this point, honestly, I couldn’t imagine this series without her.
- Dick Grayson is your favorite Robin.
- You want more optimism in your DC books.
- You enjoy circus stories that involve animals and healthy character interactions.
Globally: I still enjoy reading this issue, but I can’t ignore the flaws. The creative team has to cram so many plot beats and character beats into 20 pages, that nothing is properly fleshed out, and as a result, it all feels rushed. I’m glad we find some optimism in these pages, but if the story itself doesn’t make sense, then even optimism can’t save the final product. This issue can easily be overlooked, and unless you’re a finalist or have a few extra bucks to spare, I’d recommend skipping it and waiting for the second arc to begin next month. Nothing here is essential to the overall series, after all.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.