ROBIN: SON OF BATMAN VOLUME 1: YEAR OF BLOOD
Written by Patrick Gleason
Art by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray, John Kalisz
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: March 23, 2016 (comic shops), March 29, 2016 (bookstores)
I was a big fan of Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s run on Batman And Robin. I could make a fairly easy argument that it was my favourite title of the first year (and maybe second) of the New 52. The duo understood the characters and Gleason could make a page shine.
When Robin: Son of Batman was announced as part of the DCYou launch, I was hopeful that Patrick Gleason would be able to maintain the spirit of B&R, but I was cautious about what the loss of Tomasi could mean in the equation.
I am very happy to report that the magic is still fully here, and Patrick Gleason is amazing as both the writer and artist of this first volume of Robin: Son of Batman.
Damian Wayne has never been better than when he is penned and penciled by Patrick Gleason. I feel like Gleason has really become Damian’s principle creator for me, and that his work is character defining, like Geoff Johns’ work with Green Lantern and Snyder and Capullo for Damian’s old man. Damian Wayne is worthy of the Robin badge when Gleason is at the helm, a multifaceted young man who is still a kid but good god has his life ever been insane. Gleason spends this volume looking into Damian’s past as an Al Ghul, completing tasks associated with the “Year of Blood” and what that year has done to Damian’s character. There is a lot of story told regarding legacy, family and redemption, all of which are masterfully executed by Gleason.
With both words and visuals, Gleason delivers some of the most rounded characters in the DC Universe. In this volume he tackles many facets of Damian’s past, including his relationship with his mother, Talia, the incumbent Nobody, his “Alfred”, known as Ravi and his pet, Goliath. These characters really have no tie to the larger DCU and they allow Gleason to really focus in on Damian and separate him from Gotham, which serves this story well. They also function as a makeshift family for him, in a sense, which Gleason does a great job of building. In this volume you can see a progression in several characters that is fully enjoyable and, dare I say it, heartwarming, like a new version of the Bat-family is being constructed by this youngest Robin…and he has the personality to head up this crew. This is not a Robin that operates in the shadow of the Bat at all, and I love how Gleason makes that evident with the breadth of this story. This is a Damian tale, with massive ramifications and he is a big enough character to own it without his father making any appearance in his famed cowl.
Flipping back and forth between Damian’s “Year of Blood” and his current path to atonement is a wonderful way to make this story progress. Gleason paces the story perfectly in this collection and anyone looking for a jump-on point for this character will find a great one here. While there are references to some major events in Damian’s past, this collection deals mainly in events that are isolated to this story, so I’d be comfortable saying “here, meet this kid Damian” to a new reader and handing them this volume. Gleason doesn’t keep it basic or go full on origin tale, though…far from it. He uses this volume to build up a massive threat to the world from Damian’s Al Ghul past that I found completely captivating. The Al Ghul side of Damian is a very interesting aspect of this character and Gleason digs deep into the other half of Robin’s parentage in a very interesting way here. I truly feel that Gleason builds a story here that is worthy of a crossover event, larger than the stories of both Eternal series and Robin War, and he does it in six issues. That’s big talk, I know, but this story earned this kind of praise.
Now, I’ve written a lot of words about this volume and none have been about the artwork, thus far. Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray and John Kalisz are a dream team to have on the visuals of this story. The synergy between the art and script from Gleason handling both are fantastic and Gray’s ink work throughout this volume is phenomenal. Kalisz’s colours are electric, taking the pencils to the next level and making larger than life characters like Goliath explode off the page. Speaking of the completely unique Bat-creature, Goliath is one of the best things I’ve seen in a Bat-family comic in ages. Gleason gives him an amazing amount of personality, and as the silent issue of Batman And Robin showed us all, Patrick Gleason can make characters say a lot with very few words. He lets the artwork do the lifting when the story calls for it, one of the perks of handling the scripting and penciling, and I would argue that his pencils have never been better. This collection never falters as far as visuals are concerned, and I was blown away by how well this story is told by the art team.
The collection itself is a standard DC hardcover, though that is no insult. The paper quality is great, which highlights the work of Gleason, Gray and Kalisz perfectly. There isn’t a ton in the way of extras, just some variant covers and pencils, but the price of admission is worth it for the issues alone. Someday I’d love to see this tale fleshed out in a deluxe edition, but this will more than do for now.
Robin: Son of Batman Volume 1: Year of Blood is a present day masterpiece and the best execution of this character I’ve ever read. Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray and John Kalisz are a killer team and the work they put into this collection is stellar. This is superhero comics done right.
The Verdict: 10/10