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Random Reviews – Robin Annual #2

Decluttering my bedside table was one of my 2020 goals. Most of the clutter is comics I picked up… shoot, this time last year. They’ve been there a year, mostly unread. While I could just put them away unread, I’d rather make the effort to read them first. And since any thought not shared on the Internet is wasted content, I thought I’d blog about them as I went through the pile.

The Origin of The Pile

Last year, I went to Comic Hunter, one of the only local comic book shops that reminds me of the shops I went to when I got into the hobby as a child in the 80s. That includes an extensive and disorganized $1 bin. I’ve found  some gems in there (it’s how I discovered Marvel’s Freedom Ring, who I hope to get into in the future), so when I’m making a day of a trip to Comic Hunter, I like to dive in and see what unparsed collection has been added.

I left with a nice stack of comics that, for one reason or another, looked interesting to me at the store. I added them to my bedside table because, again, I was interested in reading them. Then every night that I went to bed and it was time to read, out came my phone until it was way past when I should be asleep.

Top of the Pile

The first comic I read off the pile was 1993’s Robin (vol 4) Annual 2 – Bloodlines; Earthplague. Written by Chuck Dixon, illustrated by Kieron Dwyer, with inks by José Luis García-López.

Before I even get to why I bought this, there’s a lot to unpack on the cover. Heck, there’s a lot to unpack in the title. Robin volume 4 is the first Robin ongoing  series, after three miniseries, each featuring Tim Drake Robin. The first Robin annual featured a fun story of Robin vs Anarchy, a Batman villain who looks like a cross between Guy Fawkes and a firefighter. Robin annual 2 ties into something called Bloodlines Earthplague.

I don’t know if there were multiple Bloodlines arcs, one of which was Earthplague, or if the whole event was Bloodlines Earthplague. Having read the comic, I assume it’s about that green xenomorph dude giving humans super powers, as it’s tied to the story’s turning point but doesn’t get resolved in the issue.

I find the cover art fascinating. The three characters are in some vaguely defined fight scene, but with no setting. Neither of the foreground characters are acknowledging this giant monster right next to them, blood dripping from its mouth. Robin seems upset with the character you are right to assume is Razorsharp, and yet she just looks confused and uncomfortable about the whole thing.

And then there are the colours. The three characters have distinct colour schemes, with a lot going on with Razorsharp in particular. The dressing liberally employs neon green, which makes Razorsharp stand out that much more as the only character without green. Weirdest of all is the red and blue Razorsharp Cuts In, which is neither Razorsharp’s colour scheme or the colours of the cover.

I picked this book up for the 90s of it. It was a formative time in my life as a comic reader. Robin was my favourite character as a kid, and Tim Drake, the Robin of the 90s, is my favourite Robin. So while a lot of my motivation for buying this issue was “strap in, we’re going back to the 90s!” there was hope that nostalgia would balance out the kitsch.

The first page, unironically going with a “Yep, that’s me. I bet you’re wondering how I got into this” is everything I was hoping for. It’s corny and played out by today’s standards but warmed my heart reading what is now a cliché used earnestly in a world.

Turning the page and seeing an ad for The Meteor Man (a super hero for the 90s) cemented that feeling. Remember that time between Batman 89 and Spider-Man when most of the superhero movies getting released were parodies?

What surprised me about reading this story most was how engaged I was. It was part of a crossover I don’t remember or fully understand, features characters I doubt anyone remembers, and has a character named Razorsharo and Channel game razors and TV-based powers, respectively. But between the storytelling, which was well paced and easy to follow, and the art, which was before then new company Image influenced the perception of what comic book art should be, I happily turned every page and read it cover to cover.

Look, I don’t recommend anyone hunt down a copy of Robin annual 2. I liked it for a series of personal reasons. What I do recommend is trying to find your Robin annual 2. What is a comic or whatever you are sure you liked in your youth but are worried about returning to? Maybe you can still appreciate it for reasons you wouldn’t expect.