Writer: Jon Lewis
Artists: Peter Woods (p), Andrew Pepoy (i)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
The book opens with Robin racing after the group of thugs who have kidnapped a young boy, and are planning on having him drive off a cliff, so they can win a prize that is awarded that is given for the most daring stunt captured on video. However what this group is unaware of is that the young boy can be hurt when he's too far away from his sister, and as such if they do have him drive off the cliff, he'll be killed. While Robin arrives before the life ending stunt can be carried out, we see he's unable to stop the motorcycle, and as such he can only watch as the bike & the child fly off the cliff to their death. However, when the boy is consumed in the explosion we see something rather odd begins to happen to the boy's sister back in the town of Wrestling, as she turns into a giant, monster with numerous heads & tentacles. Meanwhile a deeply disturbed Robin is busy taking out his frustrations of the men who he holds responsible to the child's death, but when the trucker/gun-runner that brought him to the town of Wrestling arrives to give him a hand, we see Robin is rather torn over the idea of whether he should accept help from this man. However, he's forced to rely on the man's help when he hears about the chaos that has erupted back in town, and he has to promise to drop his investigation in exchange for a ride back into town.
There's a wonderful little moment in this issue where we see Robin is unable to save the life of the young boy, and in rare display of anger, we see he vents his frustrations on the men who played an active part in the boy’s death, while asking a question that is a clear indication that he's blaming himself for the death. It's a very solid little moment, and I have to say that it's also a pretty solid question that I'm sure many heroes have asked themselves in the wake of a failed rescue attempt. Now us readers learn that the boy's death wasn't what it appeared to be, and perhaps Robin will clue into this fact in the next issue, but at the moment we see Robin is once again reminded that there will be times when his heroic efforts won't produce the final result he was looking for, and this is a hard lesson that all the truly great heroes have to learn. From Spider-Man's failed attempt on the bridge, to the loss of Aquaman’s son, there are defining moments in a hero's life that writers need to have play out to leave readers with the knowledge that there will be times when the hero won't save the day, and these moments are equal in importance to the hundreds of other times when they do manage to foil the villain's plan. Now this death isn't exactly earth shattering, and if Robin learns the turn I imagine the lesson he's learned won't pack the same punch, but it still managed to produce a memorable moment.
This issue also manages to inject some humor into what was a rather dark story, as Robin's response when he learns the man caught him on videotape was very funny, as is the sequence where he learns his the secret identity has been exposed, or rather the undercover identity that he created. To tell the truth I didn't really notice that Tim hadn't taken off the wig until the story pointed it out, but then the action was moving at such a brisk pace up until that point that it's easy to miss out on the little details. I did like the rather quick way that the trucker managed to connect to dots, as I've always found it to be a little strange that a pair of glasses, or the little face masks that Robin & Nightwing wear would be enough to fool people who were familiar with these characters when they weren't in costume. The scene where the trucker tries to use this information to blackmail Robin was also rather cute, though the arrival of a real blackmail item does serve to cut what could've been an amusing sequence short. There's also Robin's reaction after the trucker explains why he's able to sell guns to children in Gotham City, while at the same time he's willing to risk his life to save the lives of others, as it's funny to watch Tim trying to fashion an insult that a backwoods trucker would understand. Overall it's the humor that sold me on this issue.
I can't tell you what a delight it is to have Pete Woods as the regular artist on this book, as in the forty issues since he took over as the regular artist, he's provided the art for four out of every five issues. In today's comic market this is actually an impressive number, as is the simple fact that he's been on this book for over three years, and here's hoping he's still on board when the new writer arrives (I dearly hope the rumor about it being Bill Willingham is true). His art is a near perfect fit for this book, as his clean, yet highly detailed style does a wonderful job conveying the youthful energy of Robin, and the action has a nice kinetic energy to it that one can't help but be impressed with. Robin's efforts to halt a motorcycle speeding toward the edge of a cliff is very well done, as one can see the tremendous strain this attempt is placing on our young hero. The facial work is also quite strong, as Robin's expression as he watches the bike fly off the cliff manages to perfectly capture his sense of defeat, and the change of expression when the men realize the boy isn't going to rise up out of the wreckage unharmed is equally impressive. There's also Robin's one-man army attacks against the men, as this series of panel is a fantastic display of the character's fighting prowess. I do have to ask about the cover though, as it's a fun looking visual, that doesn't seem to have any relation to the story inside.
An odd little side adventure that has Robin running around in the backwoods dealing with hillbillies armed with video cameras, a mysterious bearded man who appears to be able to bend time and space, and a young girl who transforms into a giant monster after her brother is killed in a stunt gone wrong. Now it all ties together rather well, which is due in large part to Jon Lewis, who appears to have a clear direction he want to take this story, and as such in spite of all the diverse ideas that make up the plot, it never grows too confusing. The writing also has a strong sense of humor, as Robin comes across as a very likable character, who is quick to size up a situation, and offer up some pretty amusing observations (I loved the Sasquatch line). However the book also manages to deliver a fairly powerful moment where Tim allows his frustration to show, and this makes for a very solid display of his fighting skill. We also get a pretty solid cliffhanger to end the issue.
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