Review: Robin 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular

Robin 80th Anniversary 100 Page Super Spectacular
Robin 80th Anniversary by Lee Weeks Writers: Marv Wolfman, Chuck Dixon, Devin Grayson, Tim Seeley, Tom King, Judd Winick, Adam Beechen, James Tynion IV, Amy Wolfram, Peter J. Tomasi and Robbie Thompson,
Artists: Tom Grummett, Scott Hanna, Scott McDaniel, Rob Hunter, Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Mikel Janín, Dustin Nguyen, Freddie E. Williams III, Javier Fernandez, Damion Scott, Jorge Jimenez, Ramon Villalobos, Kenneth Rocafort, Nicola Scott, Andy Kubert, Frank Miller, Jim Lee, Julian Totino Tedesco, Dustin Nguyen, Kaare Andrews, Frank Miller, Jim Cheung, derek Chew and Yasmine Putri
Color Artists: Adriano Lucas, Protobunker, Hi-Fi, Jeromy Cox, John Kalisz, Jeremy Colwell, David Baron, Brad Anderson, Alejandro Sanchez, Tamra Bonvillain, Annette Kwok, Alex Sinclair and Tomeu Morey
Letterers: Tom Napolitano, Carlos M. Mangual, ALW’s Troy Peteri, Steve Wands, Rob Leigh and AndWorld Design
Review by Steve J. Ray
Holy 100 Page Super Spectacular, Batman… the Robin 80th Anniversary special has landed! I’ve been on tenterhooks for this comic to arrive, and now that it has, I certainly have a ton to write about. So let’s quit dilly-dallying and get to what everyone really clicked the link for… a review of this long anticipated comics milestone.

“A Little Nudge”

The opening tale, written by the legendary Marv Wolfman, with pencils by Tom Grummett – the man who drew Tim Drake’s first ongoing solo series – inks by comics icon Scott Hanna, colors by industry leader Alex Sinclair and letters by seasoned pro Tom Napolitano, is a classic “missing chapter” style story. For me it fills in the blanks between Dick Grayson leaving for college (even though it’s well documented that he makes occasional visits back during breaks and in-between Titans missions) and his fateful rooftop shooting by the Joker which caused his permanent move away from Wayne Manor (Batman #408 – 1987).
If anyone had to write this story it had to Marv Wolfman. Why? Because Mr Wolfman’s the man who gave us the stories where Dick gave up the Robin mantle and took on the persona of Nightwing (Tales Of The Teen Titans #44 – July 1984). What’s brilliantly handled is how we can still see this fitting in with the stories he wrote all those years ago and the introduction of the Post-Crisis street kid Jason Todd who tried to steal the Batmobile’s tires in Batman #408. (Not to be confused with the original Pre-Crisis Jason Todd, who was a circus performer, with an origin that was almost a carbon copy of Dick Grayson’s).
The conversation between Dick and Bruce and the end of this great little story is also extremely reminiscent of the way the father/son dynamic between these two iconic characters was handled in the brilliant “Prodigal” (where Dick takes over as Batman full-time for the very first time).
Seeing Tom Grummett’s art again really made the story even better, and having it brilliantly colored and lettered by two of the best in the business really solidified its impact and entertainment value for me.

“Aftershocks”

The second Robin 80th Anniversary story stars Nightwing… and yes, by the time the tale ends you’ll agree that it DOES belong in this “Robin” collection. Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel were the men behind the majority of Nightwing’s solo adventures for almost a decade, between 1996 and 2005! Seeing them reunited in an untold tale from the amazing “Cataclysm” earthquake in Gotham classic from 1999, was a real treat.
I love everything about this story, the script, art, colors, letters, cast, supporting characters, setting, premise… the whole shebang. Seeing Dick as a new man, directly after a story telling one of his final adventures as Robin was brilliantly handled. Dixon and McDaniels, along with inker Rob Hunter, color artist Protobunker and letterer Carlos M. Mangual have delivered an 8 page gem of a tale.

“Team Building”

While some my complain that this tribute issue does focus more on Dick Grayson than the other Robins, please let me jump to Mr. Grayson’s defense. There are some people out there that only know Dick Grayson as Robin. Remember that in live action there has never been another Robin. It must also be noted that while the Boy/Teen Wonder has been around for 80 years, Dick was Robin for 44 of them. For me, this means that even if half this book was dedicated to him, that would still be fair.
Just my opinion.
This great Nightwing/Titans story by Devin Grayson (another great writer responsible for some brilliant Batman/Nightwing/Catwoman stories, including the aforementioned” Cataclysm”), Dan Jurgens, Norm Rapmund, Hi-Fi and ALW’s Troy Peteri, highlights Dick as a team player, and team leader. Oh… and that amazing sense of humour and showmanship.
Seeing the adult Titans led by Nightwing made me smile, as it’s been far too long. Seeing Dan Jurgens drawing these characters again was also a real treat, and the twist at the end made me laugh out loud!

“The Lesson Plan”

Spyral Agent 37… groovy, baby, yeah! The final Dick Grayson story of the Robin 80th Anniversary collection focuses on the period of time where he and Batman had to fake Nightwing’s death, after his secret identity was revealed to the world. Many fans objected to this era (much like they’ve lost their minds about the current Ric Grayson epic unfolding in the pages of Nightwing). Personally I adore both series, as they’ve shown completely new sides to the character, while still focusing on the things that made him great in the first place.
At first I was a little shocked by just how much Dick seemed to be going against his initial training as Robin, but – as always – I should’ve had more faith in the writers. Tim Seeley and Tom King were the men behind the brilliant Grayson series, so seeing them reunited with the stellar Mikel Janín really brought that brilliant run of comics back… I think I need to read them all again. Jeromy Cox and Tom Napolitano do great work with the colors and letters – quelle surprise – so we get another yummy, bite-size treat of a story.

“More Time”

Next we come to Jason Todd. The odd Robin out, the one the “fans” killed. It’s amazing, seeing how popular Red Hood is today, to look back and remember that, at one point, he was arguably the most hated character in comics. What’s even stranger is that audiences accepted him when he was a Dick Grayson replica, but hated the urban street-kid persona which was more fresh, original and realistic.
Poor ol’ Jay only gets one story in this book, but he was only Robin (if one doesn’t count circus Jason) for just 20 issues! (Batman #408-#428). His teased resurrection in Batman: Hush, which led to the real thing in Under The Red Hood and The Lost Days is where he became one of comics’ greatest anti-heroes, and where the character fully came into his own. He hasn’t looked back since.
The Red Hood story in the Robin 80th Anniversary collection is heartfelt, refreshing, and one which really made me see Jason in a whole new light. Yes… even this old cynic can be surprised from time to time. Writer Judd Winnick, the man most directly responsible for Red Hood’s success, has delivered a great and emotional little piece, with sublime art by Dustin Nguyen, colors by John Kalisz and letters by Steve Wands.
This was one story that definitely defies convention, as it delivered a side of Jason Todd I never even knew existed. He may only have been given 9 pages and two pin-ups, but this story, for me, is one of the best in the collection.

“Extra Credit”

It’s no secret that I adore Batman and the entire Bat-Family, but for me Dick Grayson has successfully stepped out of Batman’s shadow and is arguably the linchpin of the entire DC Universe as Nightwing, far more than he ever was as Robin. If I had to pick a favorite Robin, though, it would have to be Tim Drake. Why? He’s original, he’s different… he didn’t get picked to become the Teen Wonder, he uncovered Batman’s secret and chose to be Robin.
He’s the Detective, he’s the strategist and techno-whiz, but – more importantly – Bruce knows that Dick isn’t interested in taking over as Batman, and Tim was named, by the Dark Knight himself, as his personal choice of eventual successor. Heck, Ra’s Al Ghul himself even once called Tim “Detective”, a term of respect usually reserved only for the Batman himself!
The first Tim tale in this collection is a brilliantly drawn and written short story. Writer Adam Beechen is clearly a huge fan of the third Robin and the art by Freddie E. Williams II is, as always, absolutely gorgeous. Jeremy Colwell’s colors have always gone amazingly well with Williams’ line-art, and Rob Leigh is one of the most prolific and talented letterers in the business.
I love this story soooo much, and when you read it, realise how awesome Tim is, and take in the gorgeous art, I know you will too.

“Boy Wonders”

Tim has now also graduated from the Robin Role, but unlike Dick and Jason, he also developed it by becoming Red Robin. Now he’s known as Drake, but he took on the RR badge and moniker when Damian Wayne, Batman’s son and current Robin, entered the fray. “Boy Wonders” is an absolutely fantastic story because it shows how awesome Tim is, but also how great – and different – his predecessors and replacement are too. Javier Fernandez is a great artist, and when drawing from a script by the best Tim Drake writer of the last decade, James Tynion IV, the finished product could only ever be outstanding. David Baron’s colors and Carlos Mangual’s letters polish this diamond until it shines, oh so brightly.
I love when a new story adds meat to the bones of old favorites, and seeing this previously unseen chapter of Detective Comics made me very happy indeed.

“Fitting In”

I applaud DC Comics and writer Amy Wolfram for including Steph’s fourth incarnation in the Robin 80th Anniversary 100 Page Super Spectacular. Does this mean her history has been restored in the wake of Doomsday Clock, and the upcoming DC 5G? Whatever the case, her inclusion is a welcome one as I loved her as the Girl Wonder.
Seeing one of the premiere Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain artists return, in the form of the quirky and original Damion Scott, was also a welcome blast from the past. I love the way that this story shows how Steph is a completely different kind of Robin, but without focusing on her flaws, but instead highlighting her humor, passion and personality. Once again, this story would work so well if read as part of the original run featuring Stephanie as Robin, yet it still feels totally now thanks to the outstanding color art from the incomparable Brad Anderson and the lovely letters by AndWorld Design.

“My Best Friend”

I love Peter J. Tomasi’s Super Sons. There… I’ve said it. Now that the secret’s out, it should come as no surprise that the first Damian Wayne story of the Robin 80th Anniversary Special is another favorite. If there’s anything better than having a character placed in the spotlight, it’s when thy’re actually being described by, you guessed it, their best friend.
This little assigment written by Jonathan (Superboy) Kent about his best bud Damian, is an absolute joy to read and look at. Of course, he’s ably abetted by Mr. Tomasi with his spelling, the brilliant Jorge Jimenez on line-art, Alejandro Sanchez on colors and Rob Leigh on letters. In just six pages we get great Damian, Jon and Lois Lane moments. It’s just lovely.

“Bat And Mouse”

Every 80th anniversary special to date, Action ComicsDetective ComicsWonder Woman #750 and Flash #750, has contained at least one story set in the here and now which will have repercussions on the character/s moving forward. “Bat And Mouse” is that story. I’m very excited to see what’s coming next for Bruce and Damian Wayne, because I’ve been saying for months that they’re on a collision course in my reviews of Teen Titans.
I’ve followed Ramon Villalobos online for quite a while, and not only is he a super-cool guy to chat to, the man can draw! His take on Batman & Robin is great. It’s reminiscent of Frank Quiteley’s work, but still totally brand new. Having the story colored by Tamra Bonvillain and lettered by Titanic Tom Napolitano elevates it even further; the combating Batman/Robin captions, for example, work wonderfully.
This tale shows just how alike father and son actually are, and also how completely different. I know for a fact that sparks are going to fly, and cannot wait. Having this tale written by Teen Titans co-writer Robbie Thompson makes perfect sense, particularly when you get to the end of the issue.
Oh boy… things are going to get messy!

Conclusion

This collection was so much fun to read an the selection of top-level artists, colorists and letterers whose work can be found in these pages is second to none.
The Robin 80th Anniversary 100 Page Super Spectacular works perfectly as a loving tribute, as a new collection, and as a lead in to what’s to come. The only niggle I have is that I would’ve liked one more Jason Todd story, showing him as a badass. I would also have liked to have seen Carrie Kelly too, but those are pretty small gripes when everything we did get was so very, very good.
New Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment

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