Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: Always Starting Over
Written by: Bill Willingham
Pencilled by: Damion Scott
Inked by: Sandra Hope & Damion Scott
Colored by: Guy Major
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Michael Wright
Publisher: DC Comics
This is the new status quo establishing issue of Robin. We get to see his step mother Dana again who has lost touch with reality a bit (is this because of War Games/Identity Crisis or did I miss when this happened?) and is struggling to find her way back in an institution in Bludhaven. Meanwhile, to both be close to her and begin his life anew, Tim has taken up in Bludhaven as a high school student and its protector (presumably while Dick recovers from his leg wound over in Batman). Bruce also attempts to adopt him, only to find an unexpected impediment to the process.
There is a feeling of been there, done that in certain moments of the script. For example, we have Tim relocating to Bludhaven to prove himself to/avoid Batman, much as Dick did at the start of his solo series. The adoption subplot involving a long lost family member also happened to Dick in the pages of Gotham Knights and Nightwing.
Those moments that don’t feel “done before” are not very good. Tim’s new classmates are such cartoons of stuck up students that it is difficult to take. A morbid curiosity about Tim’s time at “Alamo High” makes sense, but the girls and boys of John Wayne High School cross the “morbid curiosity” line without even blinking. We all know high schoolers can be cruel, but I don’t think they’re ever cruel like this. Also, how can such a school exist in Bludhaven? Is it private? If not, certainly these kids would be a little more familiar with violence then they let on as Bludhaven has always been portrayed as a dangerous cesspool that is a step down the ladder from even Gotham.
Tim’s visit with Dana is also not very good, although I am having a more difficult time laying my finger on the why in that case. There is something about it that feels overly melodramatic perhaps, and while I missed having her around, I dislike that she’s returned in such condition with almost no exposition offered to explain why.
All of these shortcomings, however, I could deal with. Judging purely on script, I am sure I would have found this book to be a mediocre at best exercise. However, add the art into the equation and this issue would be happy to reach mediocre. Is this the same Scott from Batgirl? Can it possibly be? Why does Dana look about 16? I mean, I know Jack Drake married a younger woman, but I didn’t think he committed a crime to do it. And I defy you to tell me, from the art alone, who is helping dig Batman out of the rubble in the flashback involving Two-Face. Also, what’s with the cover? What does it have to do with any of the contents of this issue? Sure, it’s unique, but for what purpose? This is one of the ugliest comics I have read in sometime.
So, that’s it for me, I’m done. Willingham’s new direction fails to click with me in this issue and I have no intention of holding on to wait for it to if I have to deal with Scott’s art.