Review by Frank Plowright
Chuck Dixon wrote the first Robin solo comic fifty years after the character had been introduced, and went on to deliver a well-received run of stories about Tim Drake, very few of which are available as graphic novels.
Here, in partnership with Scott Beatty, he turns his attention to the original Robin, Dick Grayson, and his earliest days accompanying Batman. There’s some considerable thought applied, although from a 21st century perspective. In 1941 Robin was introduced firstly so that Batman would have someone to talk to and explain the plot, and secondly in order that the young readers of Batman would have a character about their age to identify with. Real world logic was never a consideration. Here we have Commissioner Gordon questioning a confident Batman’s decision to partner with a youngster.
There’s an engaging characterisation of Grayson, who’s of a nebulous age. The confidence of youth is bolstered by acrobatic skills learned in the circus, and he’s old enough that girlfriends are an attraction. He has a well developed relationship with Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred, whose notes form the narrative captions, and the structure is very much the traditional three act rise, fall and redemption morality play.
For all that, surprises are few, and the true wonder here is the art. Javier Pulido illustrates most of the book, with Marcos Martin chipping in to draw just under half the final chapter. Pulido sets the tone with some excellent cartooning, keeping the action light and breezy, and drawing the sting from the tale’s one true horrific incident. His cast is well characterised with varied emotional responses, and the look ensures the story breezes along rapidly, resembling a decent animated adventure. Martin follows the style, and were it not for the credits, surely only those studying the art would distinguish.
This individual book is now long out of print, supplanted by Batgirl/Robin Year One, in which it’s collected with the early days of Batgirl by the same creative writers, along with art by Martin. After that there was a surprise return to print in a hardcover edition padded out with notes and sketches.