The Next Generation
Art By: Jorge Corona, Rob Haynes, Trish Mulvihill, Jared Fletcher
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: January 27, 2016
Our issue begins with a very similar introduction like the one we got of Duke Thomas in our first issue to this series........... and before you cry "Shenanigans!", I know that wasn't our first introduction to Duke, I'm only stating for this series. Anyway, we get introduced to the villain of our story: Johnny Bender, who also goes by "Smiley" and he's getting the shit pummeled out of him like Duke Thomas was in the first issue and we find out that Johnny was actually the guy beating up on Duke as well. Now to just get a few things out of the way, I love the fact that our bad guy is named John Bender because that was the name of Judd Nelson's character in the Breakfast Club and as we all know, he was in fact "the criminal" of the group and I love the fact that we're getting this connection between our hero and villain. What I don't love is the fact that we get this strange backstory while Johnny's getting pummeled about him being born with something called Moebius Syndrome, that affects the muscles in your face, preventing the afflicted from ever making an expression. Now who wants a dull faced son? Nobody that's who and because of this fact, Mr. and Mrs. Bender forced Johnny to get plastic surgery when he was twelve, but the surgery didn't go as planned and Johnny wound up looking like Jack Nicholson after his surgery in the '89 Batman movie. So yeah, Johnny's got perma-smile going on and that part is okay. The thing I don't like about it is we have this character who was already depicted in the first issue, but going back and looking at that debut, old Johnny wasn't rocking his smile. Yeah, you might say that's a bit nitpicky, but if you're going to reference something, it should at least be consistent. So yeah, we have ourselves a little Joker here and it seems that Johnny can't stay out of trouble because either after he beat up Duke he went to Juvenile Hall or he did something after that to land him in the minor pokey. From this whole introduction though, you get the idea that Johnny's crazy from the way that he fights back his attackers (chewing on their faces) and the fact that he's obsessed with the Joker.
Elsewhere, Duke is still looking for his missing parents in hospital after hospital and we get the idea that he might end up working as an orderly in the future at how well he dealt with a disturbed patient and it's this interaction that gives him the idea to check out the psychiatric hospitals in Gotham.......which kind of feels odd because Duke has been to a shit load of hospitals, but the idea of checking out a psychiatric hospital after what went down in Endgame never occurred to him? After this revelation, we have short jumps around Gotham to see what the other Midtown Robins are up to and we see that Nest is still keeping tabs on his Robins since their decision to end the group. Riko keeps trying to get a hold of Duke to no avail, Dre has taken it upon himself to become his own vigilante, Dax is working on making his own compact grappling gun and Izzy is dealing with her mother shutting down and treating her like shit since her gangbanger brother was slaughtered by a Talon............ Yeah, shit isn't all good for our heroes, but these little slivers of stories really got me interested in catching up with these characters. Back to Smiley, we see that he's being released from Juvie and even though he's not a likable character at all, his parents are even worse. It's odd, I find myself hating these people but I also kind of see where they're coming from in treating their no good son like the criminal he is. Smiley's all pissed off because his parents are busy dealing with work or stuff on their phones, but he also seems pissed that they're laying down the law on him because they're tired of him fucking up and putting their lives in disarray. Yeah, Johnny has a point in being pissed about them forcing him to get his botched surgery, but at some point we all have to take responsibility for our actions and maybe knock that chip off our shoulders.
In the end, Duke finds his parents and I think it's hilarious that we get the revelation here, when Scott Snyder has been teasing it in Batman for awhile now and we find out that they were affected by the Joker serum. Duke is beside himself as he realizes that they don't know who he is and that his father can only seem to say that something is wrong with his wife, while his mother hasn't spoken at all. Yeah, it's a fucked up turn of events that I'm sure will mess with Duke for awhile, but that's not the only parent play we get as our issue closes. After Smiley's parents have had enough of his shit and tell him that they want him out of their house by the morning, our young psychopath goes up to his room, removes a hidden gun, puts on new garb and paints his face and then proceeds to go back downstairs and shoot his parents to death. Yeah, some people apparently deal with their parents differently than others. I really love the duality of this story between our hero and villain.
That's it for this issue of We Are Robin and I was right to get excited about getting back to our event free series because this issue had all the depth and emotion that made me a fan of this series in the first place. On top of that, we're getting a villain......... or villains since this seems to be the genesis of the Jokerz gang in the Batman Beyond series, that feel right for our Robins to take on........ having them take on Talons was just ridiculous and I'm happy that the tone of the book has returned to what it once was. All of our characters in this book are dealing with different things and even though we only had a sneak peek at what they were up to since we mainly dealt with Duke and Smiley, what we did get got me really excited to explore all those avenues and see what each character is up to individually, while hopefully bringing them all back together to be the Robin team that could stand toe to toe with the Bat-Family Robins. Yeah, they shouldn't be able to, but we saw it go down so I'm going with it. On top of the excellent tone and atmosphere of the story, we had some spectacular art and my only complaint for the entire art team is Duke Thomas looking like he was rocking a shit ton of eye liner through some of this book, but besides that this book looks great.
Bits and Pieces:
Now that the Robin War is over, we can get back to basics with our Robins and what they're up to after that event.......... since they kind of called it quits as a group. On top of that, we get a new villain and this issue tells a really intriguing duel story between Duke and his future foe. We pretty much have everything that I loved about this series before it was commandeered by Robin War and I can't wait to see where it goes from here. Just a great story, full of excellent art and I hope that a bunch of you will take this opportunity to pick this book up because it should be selling way more than it does.