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Batman and Robin and Howard | Review

Batman and Robin and Howard coverBatman and Robin and Howard
Writer: Jeffrey Brown
Artists: Jeffrey Brown and Silvana Brys
DC Comics; $9.99

Superhero comics don’t tend to spend all that much time following the secret identities of the heroes. This is the case no matter how exciting the heroes’ day jobs might be. Billionaire playboy, futurist tech billionaire, test pilot, police scientist, crusading defense attorney—no real-world job can be as compelling as the role of superhero.

That’s certainly been the case with the latest of Batman’s line of Robins, Damian Wayne, who, after all, when he’s not being Robin, is just some kid in junior high, right? Of course, the fact that the secret identity aspect of a character tends to be so little explored ironically makes a comic that does just that somewhat thrilling. There are stacks of comics featuring Damian Wayne’s adventures as Robin, but how many explore his school life? Just one, so far: Jeffrey Brown’s hilarious and at times surprisingly engaging Batman and Robin and Howard.

After we briefly see the current father/son team of Batman and Robin on patrol, Damian has to face a bigger challenge: The first day at a new school. Being the son of the richest man in town and having his dad’s butler chauffeur you to school in a fancy car every day already marks him as an outsider, and it doesn’t help that Damian was also raised first by an elite group of assassins and then by Batman himself to a be a literal genius and in peak physical condition. And, of course, unlike some of the more humble young men Batman has partnered with over the years, Damian knows his skill level and acts like he’s better than everyone else, his arrogance being one of the more appealing aspects of the character. His heart might be in the right place, but Damian still has a lot to learn about playing well with others, which makes him such a fun Robin.

Damian quite unexpectedly meets his match when he’s introduced to Howard, the smartest and most well-liked kid at school, who also happens to be the best player on the soccer team. The gregarious Howard takes Damian under his wing and shows him around school, but it’s not long before the two form a fierce rivalry in the classroom and on the soccer field.

“You two are so alike,” one of their friends observes at lunch one day. “You should be best friends.”

They may get there, but it will take some ups and downs before they do.

Meanwhile, Batman is investigating a strange mystery that should be well beneath the World’s Greatest Detective—someone seems to be sabotaging junior high soccer teams around the city—but, with enemies as weird as Batman’s, one can never tell. (“I mean, I’m a little overqualified for school pranks,” Batman says when Commissioner Gordon hands him the file, to which Gordon replies, “Unless it’s a new soccer-themed villain. Then it’s right up your alley!”)

Cartoonist Jeffrey Brown writes and draws the book, with Silvana Brys providing color art. Brown’s artwork should be instantly recognizable to most readers, the prolific artist having produced dozens of works in various genres and for various audiences, but his popular books for kids include the Vader and Son collections of cartoons, the first Jedi Academy graphic novels and the Lucy & Andy Neanderthal and Space-Time series.

Brown’s style is a delicate balance between amateurish-looking and professional, always having an almost home-made look, like he quickly drew it just for you personally. Brys’ coloring matches the aesthetic; if Batman and Robin and Howard looks like something Brown hand-drew directly onto the page in front of you, it also looks like Brys colored his pencil and ink work in with colored pencils.

It’s an extremely different look for a Batman comic, but then, here Batman is placed in the role of dad more than he is Dark Knight, and Brown draws a pretty incredible Batman-as-dad.

As for the relationships between the protagonists, they are all in keeping with what one might expect in the “real” Batman comics. In fact, though the book is very funny, it’s never outright silly or goofy, but is a nice companion to the more Robin-focused Damian Wayne comics out there, of which there are plenty.

Basically, it’s a nice introduction to the world of the current Batman and Robin, and a sometimes touching story of Damian learning not to be such an arrogant jerk.

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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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