“Robin War” goes a little bonkers in We Are Robin #7, which doesn’t focus on the We Are Robin kids (Even though Duke’s narration is ever present.) as much as the skills and determination of Tim Drake and Jason Todd as they stage a breathtaking prison break. Along with its spot-on characterization, flashes of humor, and social conscience, “Robin War” has been filled with exciting set-pieces, and this one shows all the Robins’ debt to Dick Grayson’s high flying acrobatics when a battle to the death for the supposedly coveted role of “Gray Son of Gotham” in the Court of the Owls turns into Jason and Tim pulling a jail break. Action is definitely the main focus of this issue, and artist Carmine di Giandomenico is definitely game from an opening page flashback to Dick’s circus days to the jam packed double page spread that is the piece de resistance as Jason and Tim make their fight fake fight look real before Di Giandomenico goes vertical with his layouts for the escape. But We Are Robin #7 isn’t set pieces strung together by the bare minimum of a plot and talks about the negative effect of being imprisoned on young black males through Duke Thomas’ inner monologue. He might have the ability to pull crazy stunts like Red Hood and Red Robin, but his thoughts are the heart of this issue.
But before the second and third Robins go to work, Bermejo and di Giandomenico explore the partnership between Jim Gordon’s Batman and Dick Grayson, who are handling the investigation of Councilwoman Noctua while the Court of the Owls keep the rest imprisoned in her unsanctioned incarceration facility. Mat Lopes uses a predominantly grey palette for these slower scenes of conversation and detective work that could also symbolize their morality as Gordon talks about “adapting” his moral code to allow vigilantism and even what could be construed as child endangerment in the case of the Robins. Dick gets an interesting line of dialogue about how Gordon never talked to him when Batman was present revealing some of Gordon’s guilt about Batman taking on a child partner that he tried to justify with a story about Jewish boys during WWII fighting the Nazi occupation. Bermejo mines their shared history to create interesting character interactions into what could be a rote detective/conspiracy story.
But the majority of the story and the real flashy/blockbuster-esque bits come in the prison, which was built without authorization from the GCPD. (This could be a jab at the privatization of the penitentiary system a la Orange is the New Black, but gets dropped on the way to the next plot point.) However, before the fighting and leaping, Bermejo turns the narrative back to Duke, who is our fairly grounded (“Sane in an insane profession”) POV character in a semi-operatic narrative filled with images, symbols, and brights reds and yellows from Lopes. Di Giandomenico gives us a powerful page showing the various cages from his POV as Duke darkly jokes and muses about how one of nine black men are imprisoned between the age of 20 and 24. Being in jail has serious societal consequences for him, and this is why he is irritated at Damian Wayne continuing to push his privilege on the We Are Robin kids. Seriously, the whole “amateurs” things is getting annoying. However, Duke does have a kind of professional respect for his fighting and sleuthing skills. Although the bulk of the action features Jason Todd and Tim Drake, Duke Thomas continues to be the heart and soul of We Are Robin.
Like the directors of the recent and steadily increasing in quality Mission Impossible films, the artists of “Robin War” keep topping each other in the scope and overall thrill level of their big action beats. And Carmine di Giandomenico brings his A-game to Jason Todd and Tim Drake’s deathmatch turned circus stunt leading off with intense close-ups of their and Damian’s face showing the high stakes of the fight before cutting loose with jagged panels, some badass flips, and plenty of shonen manga-esque speed lines to go with his more traditional superhero figures. Then, when the soaring begins, he zeroes in on Drake’s Red Robin wings giving the page a feeling of freedom to go with his up and down panel layouts. Bermejo keeps his dialogue/inner monologue to a nice minimum supplying a couple humorous reactions from Jason, including a cry of “Yaaas!” (Missing the “queen” unfortunately.) when the maneuver is a success along with Duke, who is simultaneously awestruck and mentally taking notes on how to become a better Robin. It’s a shot of adrenaline for a series that goes cold on the final page.
With powerful art from Carmine di Giandomenico and insightful writing from Lee Bermejo, We Are Robin #7 deftly balances action and character interactions even if it seems like the overall plot barely progresses with the prison escape and Gordon and Dick’s discovery of the connection to the Court of the Owls. “Seems” because this issue is a continuation of the high energy “Robin War” crossover that still has time to reflect on social issues and have genuine character development. It would’ve been nice to hear from some of the other We Are Robin members other than Duke though.
We Are Robin #7
Written by Lee Bermejo
Art by Carmine di Giandomenico
Colors by Mat Lopes
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by DC Comics
Logan is a nerdy, bisexual ginger, who recently graduated university with a degree in English Literature and Overanalyzing Comic Books. He loves comics, music (especially New Wave and BritPop), film (especially Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright), sports (college football and NBA), TV, mythology, and poetry. Joss Whedon is his master, Kitty Pryde is his favorite superhero, and his current favorite comic is The Wicked + the Divine.