Faced with a life or death decision, Dick Grayson finally learns to become Robin by becoming less like his mentor.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers from Robin and Batman #3, on sale now.
Robin and Batman #3 (by Jeff Lemire, Dustin Nguyen, Steve Wands) is the conclusion to a miniseries that explored Dick’s early days as a teenage sidekick to Batman. The end of the story firmly establishes Dick Grayson as the iconic Boy Wonder. A reoccurring theme throughout this hero’s journey is Dick struggling to maintain his own identity and how to make the Robin role his own. Previously trying to emulate Batman as much as he can, Robin soon finds himself in a deadly battle with Killer Croc. It is during this confrontation that Dick learns a valuable lesson: where Batman works in the darkness, Robin must fly and work in the light.
It is an important milestone in both setting up Dick Grayson as his own hero and firmly establishing the importance of Robin as an aide to Batman. By defeating Croc on his own terms, Robin begins to define and establish his heroic identity.
The story picks up from the events of the last issue, as it is revealed that Killer Croc knows that Dick Grayson is Robin and plans to confront the Boy Wonder at Gotham Academy. After Croc announces his presence via intercom and demands to see Robin whilst taking the principal of the school hostage, Dick dons a makeshift disguise to confront him. Outmatched, Robin struggles before Batman arrives to help Dick fight Croc but the Dark Knight is incapacitated when Croc exploits a rib injury Batman obtained in their last encounter. Croc kidnaps Batman, promising Dick that he will watch his surrogate father die just like he watched his parents die. As Robin, Dick then hunts down Croc to save his mentor at Haly’s Circus.
As Croc tries to drown Dick in the water, thoughts rush to the Boy Wonder’s mind as he recounts how before meeting Bruce that he always tried to avoid the dark and that he needed to embrace it. This proves to not work, as a near death experience with his parents remind Dick that he is his own person, and that “Robins need to fly”. By doing this, Robin reaches the end of his hero’s journey by realizing that he needs to be “the light” and avoid merely being another dark vigilante to accompany his brooding mentor.
While Dick comes to this conclusion in the nick of time, he did not manage to do it on his own. Alfred’s influence over Dick has been shown throughout the series, such as when he confronted Bruce for using Robin to spy on other sidekicks. While his mentorship under Bruce allowed him to become a sidekick in the first place, it was the guidance of his parents and Alfred Pennyworth showed him how to become Robin. Prior to this realization, Dick was becoming as secluded and brooding as Bruce, which can be seen when he rudely rejects the offer of a classmate to play Dungeons and Dragons with them. After accepting who he is, Dick can then be seen playing the game and enjoying time with his other friends, the Teen Titans.
In this representation in the early years of Dick Grayson’s superhero career, we can see the exact moment he separated himself from Batman. Robin has always acted as the light to Batman’s darkness, a yin to his yang to stop him from falling into the depths or not having someone to save him. Similarly, it also sets up Dick’s future role as the “linchpin” of the DC Universe, making him a friendly and supportive leader that is friends with nearly every other major DC hero. It is an advantage that Dick has over Bruce and part of the reason Batman feels that Dick is his greatest accomplishment.
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