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Teen Titans: Robin by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo

Teen Titans: Robin by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo

Teen Titans: Robin by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo

DC Comics, pb, £12.79

Reviewed by Sarah Deeming

The front cover for Robin by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo. The front cover has a young boy with black hair in the right hand side in a red and black hoodie holding a Batarang. On the left is a taller man with black hair in a red and white baseball jacket with a captial white R on a black circle on the left side.

Raven and Beast Boy have escaped from HIVE’s research facility with the help of Raven’s adoptive sister, Max, and Damian Wayne, a young man trained by the League of Shadows as an assassin and Batman’s son. But now they are in the wind with powers they don’t understand and nowhere to hide. They are not without support, though; Max’s mother has her own gifts she’s honed over time, and she has the experience the group need to become their true selves. Nor is she their only ally. Dick Grayson, Batman’s original Robin, has tracked Damian down after he left Wayne Manor without a word. Damian might not like Dick, but the group need his experience of crime fighting with Batman to develop further. Can Damian see beyond his personal feelings for Dick to the benefits his adoptive brother brings to the fight?

Robin picks up straight after Beast Boy loves Raven, with the group escaping Slade’s clutches after Gar and Rachel (Beast Boy and Rachel) were tortured to understand what they are capable of. As the name suggests, it focuses on that staple of DC characters, Robin. If you know your Batman, then you’ll know there have been several Robins, and Damian, the son Batman never knew he had with Talia al Ghul, is the latest. His is a troubled story, trained as an assassin, left with a father who didn’t know he existed and surrounded by young people who Damian feels Bruce loves more than him. After all, why would Bruce Wayne adopt all these kids when he had Damian? Damian has a lot of baggage, and Robin unpicks some of it using Dick Grayson as a representative for all the Robins who have gone before.

And while Damian is reclusive and sarcastic, Dick is the cinnamon roll we all know and love. As in the core series, Dick’s only concern is being Damian’s loving, supportive older brother, recognising much of himself in the angry youth. It doesn’t matter that in the core series, Dick is already Nightwing and Timothy Drake is Robin because the Dick and Damian relationship is true.

The colouring sticks to the purples and greens of the previous books, with the occasional addition of red and black. Damian is always in black, and at least one element of Dick’s clothing is red, making them bold figures on the page.

One of my favourite panels is about halfway through, after Dick and Damian have gone head to head in a series of challenges to see who is better. Damian loses, and he explodes, voicing the insecurities of everyone who’s ever been Robin after Dick, that they will never live up to him. That Dick will always be the favourite, and they’ll just be the bad-tempered one. The panel covers the top half of the page with a jagged cut down the middle so we can see their expressions, Damian’s outrage and Dick’s defence at the outburst.

I have always admired Picolo’s pop art style and commented in the past about how he captures the energy of the characters. Robin is no different. One of the challenges involves Dick and Damian throwing Batarangs at a tree until one of them misses. Each panel goes across both pages, so we have the scope of how far these are being thrown. But between each panel of thrown Batarangs are scenes of Gar, Rachel and Max becoming increasingly more bored, giving us a timescale for how long this has been going on. Words are limited because of the concentration needed for the challenge, but we don’t need them because the pictures are that good.

The story is building nicely toward the creation of the Teen Titans, with hints that we’ll be focusing on Starfire next, which is exciting. I appreciate that this series is aimed at young adults, and I am not one of those, sadly. However, my household contains a member of the target audience, so I can confidently say it is pitched perfectly. When Robin arrived, she hunted out the others from the series and read the whole thing cover to cover, then sighed she had to wait so long for the next one. Garcia and Picolo capture the essence of youth culture and give young adults characters and emotions that they can relate to. This is one of my favourite series, and I (and my daughter) can’t recommend it enough.

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