With so many Robins running around post-Endgame it was only a matter of time before they all collided. That is exactly what has been going on during the course of Robin War. To make matters worse for Gotham City the Court of Owls have decided to use this time to come back into the spotlight and cause their own brand of chaos. In the issue leading into this finale the Court of Owls were able to convince one of Batman’s former protégés to join their group. How will this betrayal leave the Batman Family at the end of Robin War? Let’s find out with Robin War #2.
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Khary Randolph, Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens
Colorists: Chris Sotomayor, Elmilio Lopez and Mat Lopes
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Taylor (one of Robin’s from “We Are Robin”) tells himself “I’m Not Robin.”
Taylor thinks back to his adventures with the other Robins and how they were eventually hunted down by the police. Taylor then remembers how he met the Robin’s Batman trained, the Robins imprisonment, Red Robin and Red Hood saving them and then being told that all the untrained Robins should go home.
Back in the present Taylor has taken off his Robin costume and plays video games at his place while mumbling “I’m Not Robin” over and over again.
Over at Gotham Academy Robin (Damian Wayne, who I’m going to call D-Robin for this review) is wearing a Court of Owls mask and flanked by Talons. D-Robin tells Red Robin, Red Hood and the Robins to go home. Red Robin and Red Hood ask D-Robin what he thinks he is doing wearing a Court of Owl mask. D-Robin answers by saying that they have no idea what he has done to save them all. More Talons start to appear out of the ground.
Duke approaches D-Robin and theorizes that they got locked up because the Court of Owl wanted one of them on their side and that they got in D-Robin. D-Robin tells Duke and the others to go home or he’ll make them. Duke doesn’t believe it which earns him a punch from D-Robin that knocks him out.
D-Robin tells the other that the war is over. Red Hood doesn’t think so and he leads Red Robin and the Robins into a fight against D-Robin and the Talons.
Meanwhile, Dick Grayson is in the Labyrinth of the Court of Owls watching everything happening with the Robins and Talons. Dick asks Lincoln March how he got Damian on their side.
Lincoln explains that after the Robins broke out and went to defend the city Damian came to the Labyrinth. While there Damian ended up fighting a group of elite berserker Talons. During the fight Lincoln explained that the elite berserker Talons were created as a failsafe to destroy Gotham City if the Court of Owls ever lost control of the city. Lincoln then said that they are now using these Talons because they could not obtain their “Gray Son” and will destroy everything, including an untrained Bruce Wayne. This caused Damian to accept Lincoln’s offer to become their new “Gray Son.”
Elsewhere Taylor gets a call from one his Robin friends, who asks him to help out the others at Gotham Academy. Taylor doesn’t want to hear it and says they should let the cops handle things. The other Robins tell Taylor that they should help because they are Robin.
Back at Gotham Academy, D-Robin fights Red Hood and is able to knock him out quickly. Red Robin approaches D-Robin as he wants to understand what is going on. D-Robin says that Red Robin should know what is going on. He then knocks out Red Robin while saying “I’m Not Robin.”
D-Robin then tells the remaining Robins to go home since the originals weren’t able to stop him. The remaining Robins don’t back down and D-Robin takes them all on by himself. D-Robin is able to make quick work of all of them.
Duke suddenly wakes up and gets ready to fight D-Robin.
Back at the Labyrinth Lincoln tells Dick that he has something to return to Dick. Dick does not want hear it. Lincoln then shows Dick his old Nightwing domino mask and asks if Dick ever wondered why he actually used the name Nightwing.
Dick doesn’t want to her it and begins to fight Lincoln. During the fight Lincoln explains that while Dick got the name Nightwing from Superman the actual reason he used it is the name represents the Owl.
Things continue to grow chaotic on the streets of Gotham City with the GCPD barely able to hold the Talons back. As this chaos goes down Taylor continues to watch from his room.
At Gotham Academy D-Robin and Duke continue their fight with Duke able to hold his own. During the fight Duke tells D-Robin that he was able to figure out that D-Robin is Damian Wayne, the son of Bruce Wayne who has forgotten he is Batman after making some sort of sacrifice. Duke says that Damian is doing the same thing, while also forgetting his responsibilities. D-Robin says Duke doesn’t know him but Duke says D-Robin doesn’t know himself.
As they fight the other Robins that went home join the fight against the Talons, including Taylor.
Back at the Labyrinth Dick tells Lincoln he is done listening Lincoln’s ramblings because neither he nor Damian are part of the Court of Owls. Dick grabs one of the owl statues and tosses it at Lincoln. Dick then tells Lincoln he is sure Lincoln will resign from his post in the Court of Owls. Dick then punches Lincoln into the ground.
Dick then asks if anyone has a match because he is burning the place down. Lincoln tells Dick that they can kill Damian anytime. Dick slams Lincoln into a wall wanting an explanation. Lincoln says that Damian’s mask has nanotech that once activated will kill him. Dick doesn’t believe it which Lincoln wonders if Dick wants to risk the chance it’s true.
Meanwhile, D-Robin and Duke continue their fight with Duke unable to evade D-Robin’s attacks. As Duke continues to absorb punishment he talk about how D-Robin is trying to make the same sacrifice that Batman did, which will make him end up alone just like his dad. D-Robin tells Duke to shut up but Duke says that he understand D-Robin because he would make the same choice given their situation. Duke then admits the one difference between D-Robin and himself is that he is not Robin, Damian is Robin.
At the same time Lincoln ask Dick to make his own choice.
On Gotham’s streets the Robins are doing their best to fight off the Talons. Just as one of the Talons is going to Taylor from behind D-Robin appears, not wearing the Court of Owl mask anymore, to make the save.
As the last of the Talons are knocked out in the area Riko checks on Duke. Riko says that the cops are now seeing all the good they can do thanks to Duke. Duke is not sure but Riko says they are accomplishing their mission. Riko then kisses Duke as the Robins celebrate around them.
As Batman and all the Robins take down the remaining Talons around the city Lincoln explains to Dick how he orchestrated everything so Dick would save Lincoln from his fate. Lincoln says that he set up a plan where he sent a Talon to rob a store and cause one of the Robins to do something that would endanger all the Robins that Dick inspired. He goes on to say that this would all lead to Dick’s return, one of Batman’s Robin joining them and the release of the elite Talons all to force Dick to accept the Court of Owls offer.
Sometime later Dick has assembled Damian, Tim and Jason in the Batcave. Jason wants to know where Dick was during the big fight with the Talons. Dick explains that he went after evidence that to put away Councilwoman Noctua and get her to confess that the Court of Owls were behind the Robin laws. Dick says that this wasn’t enough for those in charge, as they believe that Noctua just went insane. Dick then says this leaves more fights to fight. Tim calls Dick a traitor which Jason and Damian agree with. They then ask why they should trust Dick. Dick says because he did everything for Bruce and all of them.
At the Gotham Cemetery the core group of Robins gather at Travis (the Robin that caused everything to happen and was killed by a Talon) grave. Duke talks to the others about how he was the one to continue being a strong Robin after what happened. Duke then admits his guilt over everything and says that none of them are ready. Duke walks away from Riko and the others while saying “We’re Not Robin.”
Later that night Duke is walking through an alley. Damian suddenly appears out of the shadows and they share an awkward “Hi.” Duke asks Damian if he is free to go watch a movie with him. Damian says he doesn’t see movies. Even though he says this Damian walks with Duke to the movies.
Elsewhere the High Court of Gotham has called a meeting with all the other Court of Owls around the world. The High Court of Gotham’s leader proclaims that this latest meeting is for all of them to witness the newest member of their group to put on their new mask. The Gotham asks the new member if he is ready and he says he is. The Gotham leader then tells the new member to say the words. The guy turns around to reveal that it is Dick wearing a Court of Owls mask all the while saying “I’m Not Robin.” All the Owls then welcome Dick to the Parliament of Owls as the “Gray Son of Gotham.” End of issue
The Good: Robin War #2 ended this big Batman Family crossover in a way that I did not fully predict. Tom King did everything he could to elevate the characters involved in this big crossover. But while certain characters were able to shine there were things forgotten in the chaos that left much to be desired.
One of the pleasantly surprising aspects throughout this Robin War crossover is that all the characters have been able maintain their own voice. That is something that has been the downfall of many crossover events involving several teams of characters. But that didn’t happen for this crossover and Tom King continued to show the diversity in character personalities throughout Robin War #2.
While not every character was given time to shine, specifically the “background” Robins from We Are Robin, the characters that needed to be spotlighted were. The one that stood out of the new characters was Duke. As the leader of the We Are Robin group Duke was given the biggest moment of his career with his fight against Damian. It is through this fight that we really get to see what kind of potential Duke has a protector of Gotham City. Through this fight Duke got to show his tenacity and detective capabilities with how he was able to figure out that Damian was not only Robin but also the son of Bruce Wayne/Batman.
The fight also helped to serve as a bonding moment for Damian and Duke. Damian in particular seems to need someone like Duke to call his friend. Since Bruce’s clash with the Joker in Endgame Damian has been without someone to guide him as he has been out on his own interacting with characters like Nobody’s kid and his mother Talia Al Ghul. King showed us that because of his current status quo Damian isn’t making the same decisions we would normally see Damian make. But now that may not be the case as we saw that Damian found a friend in Duke, someone he can go just hang out with and maybe get him out of his shell.
As interesting as the Damian/Duke dynamic turned out to be what made this issue stand out is what King did with Dick Grayson. By the time 2015 ended DC re-established Dick Grayson’s link to the greater DC Universe after keeping the character in the shadows since Forever Evil ended. That momentum in Dick becoming a part of the DCU once again seems to be something that DC is going to continue. King certainly made a case for a bigger part for Dick Grayson in the future of the DCU with his decision to join the Court of Owls. This is a decision that is sure to shake things up for the entire Batman Family books given how the Court of Owls have become such a big deal since the launch of the New 52.
The timing of this decision to make Dick Grayson a leader within the Court of Owls comes at an interesting time given that we also have Batman & Robin: Eternal going on right now. That is a title that seems to be leading into a direction that will also force Dick to make a big decision. I am now even more interested to see what happens in the Eternal book given that these two stories take place around the same time. And with Bruce returning to the role of Batman in the very near future King has set up plenty of story opportunities for the Batman Family after Robin War.
The Bad: Even though I found that King did a good job giving every character their own voice he also highlighted the fact that Tim Drake and Jason Todd aren’t really a necessary part of the New 52 version of the Batman Family. This is no better highlighted by the fact that they both got punked out by Damian relatively quickly. Even though both characters have established a strong legacy within the Batman Family they just don’t fit anymore. For one Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne fill the roles of old and young Robin. Then there is the fact that characters like Harper Row have appeared that fill the role of hot head and tech expert that Tim and Jason are known for.
This is not to say that Tim and Jason are not needed anymore but that the Batman writers can’t just write them the same way again. There are too many characters now that stand out far more than those two. At this point they need to be developed more within the Batman Family so that they don’t continue to look like plain vanilla characters who are just around because of their legacy.
Outside of the disappointing use of Tim and Jason the other problem this ending had was with how quickly everything got swept away for the characters of We Are Robin. While they did help save Gotham City it all seemed to ease to forget the reckless action that caused. At the same time the “Robin Law” could’ve provided We Are Robin a good foundation for the series. The cast needs something to overcome outside of being amateurs going up against Gotham gangs and Batman villains. The “Robin Law” could’ve given them all an added reason to prove themselves.
The other problem that Robin War #2 has is the art by committee. By having several artists working on this title there was no consistency from scene to scene. Even when we were in the midst of some big moments the change in art styles took away its impact. And with the constant changes in art style there was no time given to the reader to get comfortable with the story since we have to adjust to the changes constantly being made.
Overall: Robin War #2 doesn’t completely knock things out of the park. There are several problems with the use of characters not named Dick Grayson, Damian Wayne or Duke Thomas. The “Robin Law” quickly being swept under the rug was also a disappointment. That said, there are several big things that happened during Robin War #2 that make it worth reading for Batman fans. These new developments are sure to leave lasting ramifications that will drive the Batman Universe 2016 forward.