While the Batman Family is busy dealing with the Magistrate and other problems back in Gotham City Damian Wayne as Robin has gone in a completely different direction. Damian has found himself in the middle of a fighting tournament where after three deaths the combatant is permanently dead. Damian already got his first life taken after Flatline removed his heart in the opening “sparring match.” The fight to the death tournament has not officially began since it won’t begin until every participant has died at least once. With these rules set Ravager Rose Wilson has decided to take Damian under her wing to teach him things that will allow him to possibly win the tournament. Will this mentor-protégé relationship work out for both Damian and Rose? Let’s find out with Robin #3.
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Gleb Melnikov
Colorist: Luis Guerrero
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At the Soul Cliff Beach, XXL calls Damian Wayne names trying to get him to fight but Rose holds back the young Robin.
Rose then walks Damian through the beach party and tells him its time he made some friends. Damian is not interested since the friends he made in the past either left him or grow up to fast. Rose says that the Teen Titans were just people he forced to be a team. She goes on to say Damian’s weakness is he is to stiff all the time and needs to learn to loosen up.
Flatline overhears the conversation when Rose brings up Damian reading manga. She makes a joke that Damian takes a bit to seriously.
Damian then notices Brutale doing knife tricks. Damian takes the knives and throws them up in the air. The knives land on the table perfectly between all of Brutale’s fingers. This impresses Brutale, Double Dare, and Flatline.
Constantine Drakon appears and talks up how he fought Batman in the past. Damian gets tired of hearing about his dad, takes his Robin costume, and disappears without Rose noticing.
Robin then finds Connor Hawke. Connor knows Robin is behind him and talks about how the feeling of death lingers on the island. Robin remembers Rose telling him Connor is his number one rival and says they can go against the rules to have their fight at night. Connor is not interested as he was just looking for a quiet place to meditate.
Robin then asks Connor why he aligned himself with the League of Shadows. Connor reveals that the League of Shadows were the only ones that could find him and they helped retrain and give him a purpose. Connor then brings up how he and Damian have a lot in common, such as both their fathers (Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen) being superheroes.
Damian and Connor then sit on a cliff to talk about their respective fathers similarities as Batman and Green Arrow, including their current love interests. Damian and Connor end up laughing about it.
The leaders of the League of Shadows suddenly appear. They remind Connor that Damian is his enemy. Damian recognizes one of the League of Shadows’ members as Master Dusk. Damian mentions that Master Dusk was kicked out of the League of Shadows by his mom (Talia Al Ghul) for his training methods. Master Dusk says that Damian could’ve been groomed to be the greatest weapon but instead is the League of Shadows greatest failures because of Talia and Batman’s influence.
Mask Dusk then demands Connor show the League of Shadows his loyalty to them. Connor does as he is told and gets ready to fight Damian.
Connor and Damian fight evenly for a period. Eventually Connor is able to get Damian in position to slam him down hard on the ground. Connor then strikes Damian in the back of the neck. With Damian barely conscious Master Dusk tells Connor that since Damian would only heal if he died to have Robin instead suffer from the pain of his injuries. Connor then throws Damian off the cliff.
As he falls Damian starts to come to but is unable to do anything so he ends up landing on some rocks.
After some time someone appears at and tells the unconscious Damian “I have you, son.”
The next morning Damian, who has had his head and arms bandaged, wakes up thinking his dad saved him. Rather than Bruce, Ra’s Al Ghul is shown to be the one who saved Damian. Ra’s tells Damian that he has a lot to teach his grandson. End of issue.
The Good: Comic books like Robin #3 is a great example of how you can strike different tones within a story. Joshua Williamson makes sure the interactions Damian Wayne has throughout Robin #3 to be appropriate to both the scenes and characters involved. At the same time, you never lose sight over the fact that every character in this series is involved in a fighting tournament where you are only declared the winner if your opponent dies.
Given all the rules that come with this fight to the death tournament Damian Wayne is the perfect link to drive the story forward. As Rose Wilson mentions, Damian is such a stiff that Williamson is able to further showcase how different the personalities of the different participants of the tournament are to him. Each character has their own edge but when you look at XXL, Double Dare, Brutale, and Constantine Drakon, each one of them has a distinct personality. That is drawn out even more thanks to how Damian is being placed in a situation where he is interacting with these characters personalities come across as even more vibrant.
The island party was also the right setting to show how Rose will be acting as Damian’s mentor. Williamson quickly establishes why Damian does in fact need Rose to mentor him. As we see during the party and in the fight that takes place with Connor Hawke, Damian’s greatest weakness is how stiff he is. There is a ridgedness to how he approaches everything that creates many openings for others to exploit. Whether its not being thrown off by Flatline’s joke or Connor using his Robin cape against him, there are things Damian isn’t noticing. Which is where Rose can further step in to help.
This pairing is also good for Rose Wilson’s character. We’ve seen over the years that her development has been all over the place with training under Deathstroke , being Nightwing’s protégé, a Teen Titan, and member of NOWHERE, she has been a character that’s more often lost in the shuffle. Now with this tournament setting and making an honest attempt to look out for Damian we are seeing actual growth in her character. It firmly establishes Rose as being more on the hero side of things, which is going back to when she was Nightwing’s protégé for a time. This further opens up how Williamson will chose to explore her own narrative within this tournament story.
Going back to Damian, while we do see Robin loosen up a bit Williamson shows us that the change won’t happen overnight. Damian’s progression will take time and him disappearing when everyone started to talk about Batman is an example of that. Going from enjoying himself to seeking out a fight with Connor Hawke all goes to show the reader Damian has a lot of growth ahead of him.
The conversation between Damian Wayne and Connor Hawke turning out to be a bonding experience between the pair was a nice surprise. The conversation all came across as being natural with how Damian and Connor bonded over their similarities. Drawing on the similarities on how Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen are as fathers and people in general added to why there is a natural chemistry to how quickly Damian and Connor become friends.
Having them become friends in this convincing way made the turn with Connor even more impactful. Because while Damian has only recently broken away from Bruce and the rest of the Batman Family, Connor has literally become the forgotten son of Oliver. Using the fact that he never appeared during the New 52 or DC Rebirth direction in the last decade gave a realistic take on why Connor would join the League of Shadows. Being a lost character for so long Connor basically regressed to a blank slate that the League of Shadows were able to mold to their liking when it comes to fighting while he still maintains his base personality fans know.
The fight with Damian also firmly reestablished Connor Hawke as one of the top fighters in the DC Universe. He is even more dangerous now than before. You can see that in the way he fights, which Gleb Melnikov does a fantastic job drawing, is much more emotionless. When told to fight he becomes a terminator that will cause the max damage with every movement and strike.
Damian only being able to get a few hits in added to how much more growth the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia Al Ghul has ahead of him. For all his confidence in his fighting ability we once again see when fighting people on par or better than him he is more likely defeated. And it all comes down to how he becomes overconfident during a fight when he believes he’ll win automatically. Unfortunately for him Damian isn’t fighting people in this tournament who will be holding back like other Batman Family do. That is shown here with Connor Hawke dominating their fight and his fight with Flatline in the first issue of this series.
Because of all that the return of Ra’s Al Ghul was an even more intriguing surprise. Ra’s Al Ghul returning was not something I expect to happen. At least not this early on into the Robin series. Given Damian’s current condition it’ll be very interesting what role Ra’s will take moving forward. That, along with if Damian will accept his grandfather’s help and what it’ll mean for his growth if he does.
Gleb Melnikov continues to be at home with the tournament setting he is drawing in Robin #3. His artwork nails how we are seeing a fighting tournament with teenagers of different ages. It speaks to the manga influences in the story that is playing out in Robin. That is best shown with the double-page splash page that has the entirety of Damian Wayne vs Connor Hawke take place. Melnikov gives the fight time to gets over the fighting styles of both Damian and Connor.
The Bad: Nothing.
Overall: Robin #3 is an absolute blast. The manga influences to the fighting tournament to the death that Damian Wayne has entered himself in is fun to watch develop. Rose Wilson and Connor Hawke strong presence in this issue adds to how Robin is a can’t miss series.
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