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Batman Adventures: Robin, The Boy Wonder | Review

Batman Adventures: Robin, The Boy Wonder
Writers: Scott Peterson, Chuck Dixon, Gabe Soria and Ty Templeton
Artists: Tim Levins, Rick Burchett, Dean Haspiel, Craig Rousseau and Joe Staton
DC Comics; $9.99

Even while continuing to produce original graphic novels for young readers like House of El and ArkhaManiacs, DC has continued to mine their late-90s/early-00s comics based on cartoons for material to fill collections. The latest is Batman Adventures: Robin, The Boy Wonder, featuring a half-dozen done-in-one stories starring the world’s greatest sidekick.

These stories mostly come from Batman: Gotham Adventures (there’s one from Batman Adventures) and feature the second Robin from the Batman: The Animated Series cartoons. That Robin was something of a synthesis of all three 20th century Robins: He had the wise-cracking personality of Dick Grayson, the backstory of Jason Todd, and the name of Tim Drake, his look similarly being a fusion of all three, although his original, green-free costume bore the closest resemblance to Drake’s.

In that respect, he’s sort of the ultimate Robin; regardless of your favorite version of the character, he likely reminded cartoon viewers and comics readers of him.

As was the case in the previous character-specific Batman Adventures collections, these stories are all nicely evergreen ones, the great virtue of the Bruce Timm-designed animated series of the era being their intentionally timeless setting, meaning they age quite well.

One of these stories stands out as a somewhat odd choice, as Robin’s role in Scott Peterson, Tim Levins, and Terry Beatty’s “Masterwork” is pretty minor, and Batman is quite clearly the protagonist, sharing most of the panel time with the story’s villain rather than the Boy Wonder.

The other five all solidly star Robin though, either as co-star or protagonist, and, thanks to the sharp, simplified designs borrowed from the cartoons and the excellent rendering of the talented artists involved, they all look great—perhaps greater today than they did when originally published, as they are now in somewhat sharper contrast to today’s more realistic (and sometimes muddy looking) coloring styles and computer-enhanced photographic backgrounds.

These stories include Ty Templeton and Rick Burchett’s “Dagger’s Secret,” in which a small-time hood trying to go straight recognizes Robin’s secret identity; Peterson and Levins’ “A Little Thing,” in which Robin longs for the good old days of Batman adventures and Nightwing, so Batgirl and company try to cheer him up by recreating goofy villains with silly crime sprees; Chuck Dixon and Joe Staton’s “Six Hours To Kill,” in which Robin must solve a case that Batman couldn’t before the unknown poison affecting his boss kills him; and Peterson and Craig Rousseau’s “Tuesday Night,” in which we see a typically typical action-packed night in the life of the Dynamic Duo.

The final story is probably the most interesting, as it features artwork by Dean Haspiel, an accomplished stylist whose super-comics are few and far between and who doesn’t subvert his personal style to the cartoon designs quite as strongly as most artists working on such a book tend to do. It also has a clever script by Gabe Soria and a premise that allows the creators to cover pretty much Batman’s entire rogue’s gallery in a single 17-page story.

Entitled “Deathtrap-a-go-go,” it begins with Batman and Robin chained back to back in a deathtrap, the latter quite worried about the predicament, the former explaining how often he has been in and escaped death traps, prompting a sort of trip down death trap memory lane and a discussion of this peculiar tradition among Batman’s villains. (“Doesn’t that seem a little…crazy to you?” Robin asks, after detailing how much time and effort must go into each trap.)

Those traps are mostly illustrated in big splash page reveals, allowing Haspiel to basically provide a series of portraits of Batman’s many villains and suggest exciting adventures around which the splash is but a single instance. Among the most bravura of these scenes is a two-page spread of The Scarecrow’s House of Horrors, featuring a cut-away image of a house in which each room is a panel, featuring Batman facing some trap or threat.

Robin, The Boy Wonder joins Nightwing Rising and Batgirl—A League of Her Own as a pretty much perfect collection of stories featuring Batman’s family. Next up? Villain-specific collections, like this spring’s upcoming Batman Adventures: Riddle Me This! starring (obviously) The Riddler.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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