New To You Comics #122: ‘Robin Vol 1– The Lazarus Tournament’ Is All Heart

With so many publishers and genres, there are always tons of comics new and old to dive into. Finding and spotlighting those comics that might be new to you (and us as well) is just what this column is for, as the name states. 

Believe it or not but while Damian Wayne is still the youngest of the Robins he’s not exactly a new character anymore. The fourteen-year-old Robin has been around for sixteen years now. For that sixteenth birthday, DC Comics gifted him with probably one of the best comic books featuring the character in quite some time. 

This week Scott and Tony are diving into Robin Vol 1: The Lazarus Tournament from Joshua Williamson, Gleb Melnikov, Jorge Corona, Luis Guerrero, and Troy Peteri. Following a tremendous personal loss, Damian dedicated himself to a new mission to win a deadly tournament held by the League of Lazarus on a secret island and prove he’s the greatest fighter. Mortal Kombat meets DC Comics in this adventure series that is truly full of heart, in more ways than one. 

Scott Redmond: So both of us are superhero guys and are quite familiar with one Damian Wayne and his entry into the pantheon of Robins. Having been the one to review this series from start to finish for the site, I can say I’m very happy to be diving into it once more from this angle. I make no secret that I’m a Tim Drake guy when it comes to Robins but Damian has a nice place in my heart too, especially after this series. 

How do you feel about the surliest of the Robins (and that’s saying something) and this series Tony?

Tony Thornley: I don’t like Damian. Not gonna lie. Ever since he was introduced he’s just been insufferable to me. There’s really only ever been two exceptions- when he’s paired up with Jon Kent, and in the Wayne Family Adventures Webtoon. Plus, my second ever pull list series was the original Tim Drake series, so it’s obvious who is my favorite Robin. (Seems to be a common sentiment among guys our age.)

So I was pretty happy with this series. Williamson actually made Damian grow, and my hell, I love kung fu tournaments.

Scott: Just call us the Tim Drake generation it seems. That’s totally fair, Damian is most certainly an acquired taste and Williamson seems to have factored that in. Oh yeah give me a good kung fu tournament and I’m set. I loved just how the series went right for it with the colorful cast of characters Damian is surrounded by here. A real whos who of DC villains and one-off threats scattered around some newer characters that would be very at home in the next Street Fighter game for sure. 

Tony: I think the only two missing DC martial artists were Richard Dragon and Lady Shiva. Which, I get it with the latter. She would have broken the story. Wonder why Richard Dragon wasn’t there though. But really I digress, it was a who’s who, plus a fun intro for several others.

Scott: Oh yeah, Shiva would have ended this series the second the issues began the actual tournament. So one of the big hooks in here is Damian dealing with the guilt over the death of Alfred Pennyworth during the big “City of Bane” storyline from Tom King’s Batman run. I must say that I think this was the most in-depth character view of Damian that we’ve ever had outside of the aforementioned moments with Jon Kent in their series. As the Damian hater amongst us, how did that part of the story stack up for you?

Tony: Damian doesn’t land right for those who don’t like him because his aloofness. He doesn’t care about others outwardly and that makes him insufferable. Struggling with the guilt over Alfred’s death instantly makes him about a thousand times more likable, because it makes him more human. Using Alfred’s “ghost” as a character in the series furthers that. He’s Damian’s Jiminy Cricket, and that is the perfect way to use that trope in this story. Man, he grows so much from there.

Scott: Agreed, it’s so very Alfred in many ways, and makes sense with what type of parental figure Alfred was to him compared to his own father who he shares quite a few of his less charming traits with. It was really good to have that growth/human element here (including when his Bat-siblings all come calling to check on him) because there is just so much going on in these first six issues. From the whole Damian/Flatline stuff to Ravager and the mysterious Respawn, and the secret of Lazarus Island, oh, and…the return of one Connor flippin Hawke!

Tony: Flatline was an absolute delight, and I loved the inclusion of Ravager. She used to be the sort of attitude-filled monster Damian was. Here she’s Damian’s entry into the tournament as well as proof what a character can grow into. A bit problem with a LOT of spin-off series is a character building a supporting cast. Using the tournament, Williamson executed that just right. Damian’s allies are familiar, but not the usual. His enemies are interesting and new, and Flatline just steals the show.

I’m kind of mad now that I didn’t follow this book from the beginning.

Scott: Fully agree here. It often feels like supporting casts even for bigger series is like some relic of the bygone past, but there are definitely some creators willing it back and I’m thankful or that. Like you said they bounced off Damian so well with Ravager as the mentor type but through Connor and Flatline we see that Damian wants to genuinely connect with someone despite his usual self, but life just ain’t that easy for a Bat character. Sign me up for a Flatline series miniseries right now. 

Also have to give props to how well Melnikov, Corona, Guerrero, and Peteri are at creating the fun colorful video game-like vibe that this tournament and series needed. Just flashy and flowing, while capturing all that emotion. I mean we got a whole issue with essentially beach bum Ra’s al Ghul, which might be the first time I’ve genuinely liked the character.

Tony: Oh yeah, the art on the series is absolutely one of the high points. It’s not just an energetic blowout, but the line art is great at showing character’s inner turmoil, or even just general body language. Each one moves differently, stands differently, and has their own fighting styles. 

I think the best example is the different Robins. Not enough artists distinguish between Dick, Jason, and Tim. They’re just slightly different heights. Corona and Melkinov both make them very different characters physically.

And the colors? Great stuff. Give me more creepy Lazarus green.

Scott: I’d paint my room in those creepy greens, but that might say something about me. Overall I think that this series does a very good job of balancing a very heartfelt character development story and a much lighter fun sort of story through the trappings of the tournament and family issues. Probably one of the best actually human depictions of Damian we’ve gotten for sure. Fans of the Bat-family are eating pretty well these days, that’s for sure. 

Tony: Yeah, I think this kicked off a renaissance of Bat-family series. Strong writing, great art. I think my biggest problem is the exact point the first collection dropped off.

That was rude DC collected edition department. RUDE.

Scott They just going to leave folks dangling there. Oh, there is so much juicy stuff to come!

Next week Tom is back just in time to tackle some Archie Holiday Horror with Tony!

 

With so many publishers and genres, there are always tons of comics new and old to dive into. Finding andCOMICONRead More

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