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Red Hood, Nightwing, Robin, Spoiler, and Robin leap through the air on the cover of Robins #1 (2021). Image: Baldemar Rivas/DC Comics

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Robins #1 is a big, fun, messy family reunion

Not unlike its cast, every sidekick to ever have been Robin

Nightwing. Red Hood. Red Robin. Spoiler. Robin. All five former and current Robins are brought together to tackle a mystery spanning their collective histories, with no Batman in sight. The dysfunctional found siblings are as entertaining as a cast as ever in Robins #1, but early stumbles drag down an otherwise delightful spotlight on one of superhero comics’ greatest families.

Who is making Robins #1?

The winner of the first DC Round Robin contest, Robins is written by veteran Tim Seeley (Suicide Squad: King Shark), drawn by superhero newcomer Baldemar Rivas, colored by Romulo Fajardo Jr., and lettered by Steve Wands.

Seeley has written the various Bat-Family members dozens of times over, with lengthy stints on Nightwing, Batman Eternal, and various one-shot specials starring Gotham’s favorite bat-themed vigilantes.

Rivas, in contrast, has only a pair of anthology stories under his DC belt. Robins #1 feels very much like a showcase for the up-and-coming artist.

What is Robins #1 about?

Robins is, above all else, about a bunch of dysfunctional siblings trying to find common ground despite their wild differences.

The extended Batman Family has plenty of group reunions, especially in the modern era, but it is a rare occurrence when all five Robins get into a room together with no one else to weigh in. Throw in a surprise new villain that could shake up the foundation of the Robin legacy and all of the Robins in Gotham may not be enough to handle the situation.

Why is Robins #1 happening now?

It won a popularity contest! In March 2021 DC Comics launched the DC Round Robin contest, a March Madness-style bracket of potential miniseries decided by public polls on social media. The contest itself drew a fair bit of scrutiny, between the first round leaving out creative teams entirely and a seed that happened to put quite a few marginalized characters and creators up against popular A-list characters and established talent. Robins became something of the poster child for these complaints, given many of the Robins have their own active series, and Seeley’s established history with the Bat-Family.

Four Robins, Stephanie Brown, Tim Drake, Damian Wayne, and Dick Grayson sit sweating around a table in gym-wear. “I should go next,” Stephanie says, “I was Robin for the shortest time at 71 days.” “48,” Tim says. “You were suspended for three weeks,” in Robins #1 (2021). Image: Tim Seeley, Baldemar Rivas/DC Comics

Contest aside, Robins is the latest example in a renewed push for the Bat-Family as a concept, and the various Robins as a group of loving, but bickering, siblings as seen in recent projects like Wayne Family Adventures and the upcoming Gotham Knights game. After decades of a lonely, angst-fueled Batman dominating the public consciousness it’s a nice change of pace to see the whole family get some time in the spotlight.

Is there any required reading?

Nope! Robins #1 gives each Robin a quick introduction and provides enough context for anyone looking to give it a try. If you do want to read up a bit on the various Robins, you’re in luck! Every member of the group has been in the spotlight of at least one outstanding run in the last few years.

If you want some Dick Grayson? Check out Seeley and Fernández’s Rebirth era run on Nightwing. Like Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown? James Tynion IV’s classic run on Detective Comics has them as its heart and soul. Dig Damian? The current Robin ongoing from Williamson and Melnikov is a dang delight. And if you’re like me and have a soft spot for the disaster trash prince of Gotham, Jason Todd, Chip Zdarsky, and Eddy Barrows’ 6-part feature in Batman: Urban Legends is the best story Jason has ever had.

Is Robins #1 good?

A hooded devotee of the supervillain Anarky rails against “corrupt city government” and “the deep state” before Zooming away on one of those awful one wheel electric skateboards in Robins #1 (2021). Image: Tim Seeley, Baldemar Rivas/DC Comics

Well ... it’s not bad! The opening half of the book, pitting the Robins against a bunch of devotees of the supervillain Anarky, is rough going. Seeley’s political jabs with the goons manage to be both muddled and about as subtle as a brick to the head. Sivas’ art has a raw, kinetic energy to it that helps drive the fight, but cluttered layouts clog up the flow. Every Robin gets a moment in the spotlight, but the ham-fisted attempts at satire weigh them down a fair bit.

The second half of the book, an extended group conversation over snacks in a sweltering room, fares much better. When Seeley lets each character shine and butt heads with their adoptive siblings, the book really comes together. Jason revels in his black sheep status, intentionally picking fights with Dick — while Damian is more concerned with finding chocolate milk for his cereal than the weight of the Robin legacy. It’s every bit the barely controlled chaos I expect from these dummies. Once the Robins start taking verbal swings at each other and whining about the lack of air conditioning in Nightwing’s loft, Rivas’ art, similarly, becomes a delight. Stephanie sweating herself to death and trying to discreetly fan out her pits is the most relatable damn thing in the world, bless that girl.

The threat that establishes itself in the final few pages, and the impact it has on the Robin legacy, is an interesting hook that has a lot of potential. Hopefully they fare better than the cannon-fodder villains at the start, and things even out going forward.

One panel that popped

The five characters who have been Robin sit around a table eating cereal out of tiny boxes, overshadowed by ghostly images of themselves in costume in Robins #1 (2021). Image: Tim Seeley, Baldemar Rivas/DC Comics

This sums up the charm of both this specific story and the Robins as a bunch of funky little siblings in one simple image. The towering, smiling legacy of the most iconic, recognizable sidekick in comic history shining over the reality of a bunch of sweaty, exhausted teens and twenty-somethings complaining about what kind of cereal Dick grabbed on the way in. If that’s not what being a Robin is all about, I don’t know what is.