Review by Frank Plowright
The previous Turning Point was a volume beset by the problem of too many Robin stories where he either barely featured, or which connected to other stories in other titles that weren’t included. Another of those begins War of the Dragons, yet it’s one of the best chapters, the catch-up simple, Robin in a desperate situation facing a foe well above his power grade and providing a superb solution to the greatest danger. It’s Chuck Dixon working hard, with Tom Grummett (sample art left) accentuating all the right moments, and the same team also deliver with a two part mystery about a series of robberies.
A turf war breaking out in Gotham’s Chinatown area with another Asian gang wanting to muscle in forms the basis of the title story, and that’s not quite as successful because it reduces the previously untouchable King Snake to also ran to serve the bigger plot. Over three chapters the tension and violence is escalated, and the outcome is nice, but Steve Lieber (sample art right) isn’t yet quite the polished artist he’d become, looking too much at earlier Batman artists rather than developing his own style.
Beyond that, the content is patchy. Who knows what Dixon was on when he came up with his idea of military obsessed child Hadrian Armstrong as a serious threat over two chapters, but let’s hope he’s stayed clear of it since. It’s nicely drawn by Mike Wieringo, though, whose work on the follow-up story about criminal ninjas is even better. Again, though, there’s possibly a good reason no-one previously used Dixon’s idea of a ninja summer camp to train the robbers of the future. What Dixon does well over War of the Dragons is establish that Robin’s crimefighting career isn’t the only aspect of his life. He has a patchy relationship with girlfriend Ariana, there’s Batman on hand to help and be helped, and he has to fit school into his crimefighting schedule.
In addition to Wieringo there’s impressive art from Mike Parobeck and from Phil Jimenez, but the artistic highlight is pages from Enrique Villagrán illustrating the story of a Robin from another world. Dixon channels samurai comics for a Robin in feudal Japan who sees his sensei murdered. Villagrán’s gritty approach to action pages, beautiful landscapes and magnificently detailed, chunky samurai warriors are a visual treat, while Dixon displays an enthusiasm for what he’s telling not always present in his regular series work. It’s by some distance the best story here.
After an initially frenetic publication rate over 2016 and 2017, the 1990s Robin reprint schedule ground to a halt with this volume. Perhaps the appetite for Chuck Dixon’s work is one of diminishing returns, or perhaps the inclusion of too many crossover stories incomplete within Robin dented the prospects. Either way, there’s been no sign of further collections, and with the number of issues per package there’s around another ten volumes of Dixon’s work uncollected.