If I ever have children, you can rest assured that one of my primary goals as a father will be to indoctrinate them in the lore and mythology of my favorite superheroes. Try as DC might these days to bring new fully-grown readers into its fold, there's just no substitute for a love of the genre that gets instilled during childhood. Most often, this type of thing is achieved through animated television adaptations like Teen Titans or Batman: The Animated Series (which are certainly thumbs up in my book), but the surest means of driving kids to read comic books is to actually create comics they can enjoy.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold is one such book — a delightful extension of the Cartoon Network series of the same name. Structured as a regularly rotating menu of team-up pairings, the book is perfectly positioned to orient young readers to all the various segments and corners of the DCU. This month's adventure offers a particularly amusing spin on the formula, bringing together (thanks to some time-traveling magic from the Phantom Stranger) everyone who's ever sidekicked for Batman as a member of the Dark Knight's sizeable gallery of Robins. The result is a fun primer on Dynamic Duo history that longtime readers are bound to get a kick out of as well.
With no less than six past, present and future Robins making an appearance and only 20 pages in which to feature them, it's a given that none of them get an in depth discussion of their origins or placement on the Bat-timeline. That being the case, it's impressive to see how much of each Robin's personality that writer Sholly Fisch is able to put on display. Through brief flashes of action and snippets of dialogue, we get a taste of Jason and Damian's impetuousness, Stephanie's chip on her shoulder, Tim's intellectualism and Carrie's punk rock attitude. All of these traits are true to the versions of the characters that appeared in the standard Batman comics, and it's a treat to see each one encapsulated so well.
More importantly, these little looks seem primed to spark new reader interest in learning more about each Robin's back story. There are several veiled references to events that happened to many of them during their crimefighting careers, generating intrigue without giving too much of those stories away. A special emphasis is placed on the fact that not every Robin has been a boy wonder, giving equal access to enjoying this comic to readers of both genders. On top of that, it doesn't hurt that Rick Burchett provides a faithful, yet simplified rendition of each Robin's costume that highlights their distinctions well. If I were still a kid, I'd sure want to learn how to draw each one of them.
As an adult with a fair amount of Batman familiarity under his belt, I enjoyed this issue a lot, though it's certainly not Dark Knight Returns (or even as witty as the best Brave and the Bold TV episodes). What it is, however, is a great example of the reason I was attracted to comics in the first place and a hope-inspiring attempt at doing the same thing for the next generation. Parents, feel free to add this one to your kids' extracurricular reading lists.
Raised on a steady diet of Super Powers action figures and Adam West Batman reruns, Chris Kiser now writes for Comics Bulletin. He once reviewed every tie-in to a major DC Comics summer event and survived to tell the tale. Ask him about it on Twitter, where he can be found at @Chris_Kiser!