Saturday, 27 October 2012

Robin, Batgirl & Nightwing Year One Review

I was lucky enough to purchase part of a large graphic novel collection recently, and now have loads of great new Batman books to read.  Three of the books that I received were Robin Year One, Batgirl Year One and Nightwing Year One, a trio of books written by Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty, and focus on the early exploits of the titular characters.

Robin Year One

Robin Year One tells the story of Dick Grayson’s first year as Batman’s sidekick and ward, focusing on both his training as Robin and his personal life as Dick.  We follow Robin foiling a sex trafficking plot by Mad Hatter when one of his classmates is kidnapped.  From there we see Dick go on to foil plots by both Killer Moth and Blockbuster.  

The story takes a darker turn, however, when Two Face becomes involved.  Blaming Batman for his disfiguration he plots revenge against him by planning to kill Robin.  Creating a scenario that allows him to capture both Batman and Robin, Two Face proceeds to brutally beat Robin with a baseball bat, only stopped short of killing him when Batman manages to break free.  Batman decides that this was too close a call and retires Dick of his mantle of Robin.  Dick runs away from Wayne Manor in defiance.

From here we follow Dick as he falls in with a group of young criminals and killers who are under the purview of the League of Assassins.  Despite having almost died, being fired by Batman and joining a group of criminals Dick’s true nature shines through and he assists Batman in bringing the group to justice.

Robin Year One is a very enjoyable read with beautiful artwork throughout.  Dixon and Beatty craft an interesting story that doesn’t feel the need to re-tread Dick Grayson’s origin story, but instead focusing on his first days as Robin.  Both Batman and Robin are written as well rounded characters with a great deal of personality. 

As a fan of Robin, especially Dick Grayson, I couldn’t recommend this book enough.  It’s full of great character moments, humour and emotion and despite the fact that it’s retelling the story of a characters past it never once feels boring or that it’s something you’ve read before.  A great all round read!

Batgirl Year One

Batgirl Year One follows Barbara Gordon, the first batgirl, as she creates the persona of Batgirl for herself, going up against not only villains, but the disapproval of both Batman and Commissioner Gordon.

The story begins with Barbara already in the mantle of batgirl, fighting against Killer Moth and his gang of thugs, but quickly jumps backwards in time to show us how an ordinary girl ends up as a masked vigilante.  We see in the flashbacks that Barbara was desperate to do the right thing and fight crime, but her father will not allow her to train to become a police officer, and she doesn’t meet the physical requirements to join the F.B.I.

With no traditional ways of fighting crime open to her, and drawing inspiration from the cities costumed crime fighters, particularly Black Canary of the JLA/JSA, she decides that it is the only option left open to her.  Barbara proceeds to hack into the police computer network, using her father’s access, to gain information on the JSA.  Breaking into their Gotham headquarters she leaves a note for Black Canary, requesting to become her apprentice.

Unfortunately for her, the letter is intercepted by JSA member Wildcat, who does not pass it along to Black Canary.  Wildcat informs her not to try and become a crime fighter and Barbara is left without a mentor, and yet another crime fighting career denied to her. 

Joining her father for a masquerade ball Barbara decides to poke some fun at him by dressing up in a modified Batman costume.  However, events soon spiral out of control when Killer Moth attacks the ball.  Barbara reacts quickly and engages Killer Moth and his gang, allowing their target, Bruce Wayne, to escape.

From these events Batgirl is born, and an enemy is made in Killer Moth.   Throughout the rest of the book we witness Barbara facing Killer Moth again, alongside his new partner Firefly, as well as the animosity Batman has towards her and the beginning of the romance that will develop between her and Robin.

Once again Dixon and Beatty have crafted a fine tale of a characters origin story that feels completely fresh and new, despite being set in the past.  The book is full of beautiful art, and some of the most stunning covers I have ever seen.  A great follow up to Robin Year One that improves upon the formula of the original.

Nightwing Year One

In Nightwing Year One Dick Grayson rushes to assist Batman against Clayface, coming straight from a mission with the Teen Titans.  Due to him arriving late and his attention and time being divided between Gotham and the Titans Batman proceeds to fire Dick from the position of Robin.

Looking for guidance and a friendly face to talk to Dick heads to Metropolis to speak to Superman.  Helping to prevent a presidential assassination dick proves that even without the mantle of Robin he is still a hero who will do the right thing.  Superman tells Dick of an ancient Kryptonian hero named Nightwing, and the influence he had on his decision to become a hero himself.  

Taking Superman’s advice onboard Dick heads home to Haly’s Circus where he lived with his parents before their murder.  There he takes up his old position of high wire acrobat, working alongside Deadman’s brother, Cleveland Brand.  It is here that Dick stumbles across old pictures of his father as a solo acrobat and draws inspiration from his costume, creating the persona of Nightwing.

Returning to Gotham Dick sets about making sure he’s know about town, meeting Commissioner Gordon and Batgirl, as well as breaking up every crime he can find, and even breaking into Arkham to torment the inmates there, making sure that in that one night Nightwing is a name to be known in Gotham.

During all of these events Batman is in the process of training his new Robin, Jason Todd.  A brash and arrogant street kid, Jason is a headstrong Robin that sees Dick’s time as Robin as something to beat, rather than honour.  As such, when the two finally meet and have to work together to rescue Alfred we see a hostile relationship gradually make way from a form of mutual respect.

Nightwing Year One is a nice mix of Dick Grayson and Jason Todd stories that not only tells the origin of Nightwing, but the passing of the title of Robin.  The final part of the ‘Year One Trilogy’ does not loose any quality that the previous two books displayed and continues to present a fresh enjoyable take on the bat family and their adventures.

 All three books are great reads, either individually or as a set, and it’s nice to read a Batman book that focuses as much on the characters and their relationships with each other as their crime fighting adventures.

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