"Dead Robin, Part One"
Writers: Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka
Artists: Kano (p), Stefano Gaudiano (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: When the body of a teenage male turns up in a Gotham City alley dressed in a Robin costume, the GCPD are forced to consider the possibility that this might be the real deal, and that the prime suspect in this death is Batman. While Batman quickly claims that this wasn't the real Robin, the detectives are hard pressed to simply accept this brusque reassurance as they still have a dead child who looks to be connected to Batman.
Comments: First off, I was a little surprised to see Ed Brubaker's name in the credit box, as I had resigned myself to the fact that he had departed this book a while back. As such, his name in the credit box as the co-writer of this arc was a welcome surprise. It also doesn't hurt that this story offers up exactly the type of story that I feel justifies this book's continued existence in the DCU. It's one of the rare DC titles that has a unique voice when it comes to its dealings with costumed heroes and villains. Now this isn't the first comic to deal with the little people who live among the costumed heroes and villains, as I believe Kurt Busiek was the first to explore this terrain with the Marvels miniseries, and later in Astro City. This also isn't the first title to present police officers who have to deal with costumed situations as Brian Michael Bendis's Powers was the first out of that gate. However, this is the only title under the DCU banner that deals with this material, and as such, I'm always delighted to see this book looks to be continuing along in spite of its less than impressive numbers on the sales front. Now my fingers are crossed that a few Robin readers are tricked into picking up this issue due to the dire looking image on the cover, as while Robin doesn't appear in this issue, I can't help but feel that none of these readers will walk away from the issue disappointed. This issue is not only a great introduction to the type of story one can expect to see in these pages, but it also serves as a very engaging look at the Batman and Robin relationship as seen from an outsider's point of view. I love that the police are allowed to ask the hard questions, like the fact that Batman is guilty of endangering the life of a minor, and there's also a nice little conversation where a pair of officers openly wonder about the damage they could do if they manage to uncover the identity of this dead child. Plus how can one not love the cliffhanger moment that this issue offers up?
I had concerns that the loss of Michael Lark would be a blow that this book wouldn't recover from, but the transition to the new art team was almost seamless, and if not for the different names in the credit box, I'd be hard pressed to tell you that this book had changed its art team. Now part of the credit for this could be the result of Lee Loughridge's influence, as the colorist doesn't get nearly enough credit for the overall look of a title, but it's his darker tones that give this book its distinctive appearance. The art also effectively delivers the more unsettling moments, from the page where the detectives visit the Arkham Asylum's inmates, to the surprise factor of that final page as Romy looks to have done something that is sure to get fans talking. The art also does some nice work on the little details like the fact that it's clear pretty early on that the dead child isn't who the detectives believe him to be, and there's also a nice little moment where the Batmobile makes a fleeting appearance to get the reporters worked up.
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