I wanted to talk more about the actual characters here. Originally this was an event starring Damian, the WAR kids and Gotham Academy. There was no hint of the Court of Owls and seemed to be a simple meeting. Robin War grew into something else that tried to cram as much as it could into the event including more characters, tie ins and extra issues in ongoing titles. The We Are Robin characters manage to become both problematic and barely present in most of the story except for Duke. Sure we see them throughout the issues but most of them don't contribute anything and their insistence that their Robin makes them come off like delusional brats most of the time.
None of them seem to understand what the mantle means though most of this and having them argue with the professionals highlights how pointless they are. We're supposed to buy them all being unskilled in comparison (which they are) yet believe Dukes' group are capable of working with them against Talons? Then we have a last moment team up that's supposed to make us forget these characters aren't nearly as skilled as real crime fighters. The messages with them are mixed and despite years worth of stories telling us untrained kids shouldn't do this it's ignored to make them worthy of a mantle none of them earned.
The official Robins themselves don't fare much better due to poor characterizations and the story strains to find a way to use all of it's cast. The fact that we saw all of them sans Tim fighting Talons during Night of Owls yet struggle on an evenly match fight is eye rolling. They shouldn't need help from untrained kids who shouldn't even be able to touch the undead Talons. The event is supposed to focus on the main Robins and their legacy, right? Well let's go over the real deals and see how they come off.
While it was always apparent Damain wouldn't be pleased with the new kids Robin War #1 gave me the impression he was a barely restrained attack dog that needs Dick to control him. I honestly got the vibe he'd maim Tim and Jason if he wasn't kept in check. His hostility towards them seems far worse than it's been in recent team ups. This is made all the more puzzling after their efforts and support to help bring him back to life. Damians' insults don't even make sense half the time making him seem kind of dim.
With the WAR kids he's dismissive and condescending. Which is more understandable than him attacking his adopted brothers but he's still rather abusive when he attacks them. Bermejo, the WAR writer, manages to show him more concerned with Jason and Tim as we see Damians' reaction to them fighting in what he assumes is a battle to the death. His pride in them (which neither see) was a highlight for his character yet it makes his later actions in RSOB more baffling. Much like Dick we have Damian deciding to go through with his own plan without informing anyone and likewise I can't understand what his reasoning was. Why did he go to them and how did he even know where to go? Never explained. We're supposed to believe this ten year old can take on multiple Talons AND two of the previous Robin that have defeated him in the past.
It was obvious early on that this event was putting everyone else in the background in favor of focusing on Dick Grayson. The problem is that we never see why we should love him as the leadership he provides is quickly tossed away with his betrayal. All to stupidly face the COO alone much like Damian does when the Robin mantle is supposed to be about teamwork. Despite his words to the contrary Dick only seems to think he's worthy of the Robin legacy. Yes he started it but he puts his desires first and doesn't care how his brothers feel. He uses them, manipulates them and while they call him on it twice nothing comes of it. Dick falls into the same trope a lot of heroes do when writers try to build them up without realizing how unlikable their actions make them. I don't know if this has a name but I'll call it Jerk in Heroes' clothing.
Why should we like him in this? He deceived for no real reason but pride. Why did he ditch the others? To keep them together and out of his hair? Well it only set them up for the Court and could have gotten them all killed. Dick couldn't have been using them as bait because he never sticks around to make sure their okay. Keep in mind he was essentially forcing his brothers to look after a hundred plus kids wellbeing. His arrogance for thinking he alone could and should deal with the Court (which even Bruce needed help for) comes off as moronic. I wish I could say this is an isolated incident for Dick but he's been acting like an ass in other books. Whether assuming he's always the one Babs wants whether she's seeing anyone or not to deciding to act like Bruce at his worse. I bought two issues of the new 52 Nightwing and Dick's behavior reminded me of issue 25.
The flashback issue had Dick acting like a brat that loved attention so much he stole the spotlight at the show by upstaging his friends and didn't understand why they were upset. This event has the same vibe and I can not think of another reason for him doing what he does that fits. Sure Gordon mentions Dick feeling responsible but he sure as hell doesn't act like someone weighed down by the burden of guilt of others following him. Dick is smiling when he explains what he did to Duke. This is the same man that promised not to deceive his family in Grayson #12 and he has no problem with the police locking them up in #15. Nothing he does ever conveys any regret for his actions.
So does ANYONE that had the Robin mantle act properly? Well yes. Granted there's a lot of horrible characterizations but I'm listing a lot of that below. So while much of their dialogue was off and bad some of their actions were still good. Jason and Tim are the only Robins that act like a Robin should throughout this entire event. The bar scene with Jason was stupid for a lot of reasons but he's the one that stands up for Bruce. He mentions in this and a tie in that their (official Robins) different because they had Batman as their partner/mentor. Jason wants to help these kids and seems to be the one of the four that's the most genuine about it.
Tim is more cautious and wants to know more about the kids. Which makes sense given his reasons for forming this version of the Teen Titans although this opposes his more accepting attitude in Gotham Academy. Dick abandons them all to do his own thing, Damian mostly yells at the WAR members before briefly becoming an Owl, but team Red make the most effort. Their the only ones that work together to come up with a plan, they take responsibility after Dick basically washed his hands of the WAR kids to do his own thing.
Don't get me wrong, most of Tim and Jasons' dialogue and bickering actions are horrible. They don't suit the characters or their relationship. In some cases the writers can't even keep track of what stance each has taken. Only the WAR and Red Hood/Arsenal issues have them acting maturely and in character. The RHA tie in issue has Jason and Tim discussing what's happening in a mature fashion which builds their growing bond further. Their respect for each other is mutual and Jason finally learns why Tim took the Red Robin title. There's more actual growth of those two characters in a couple pages of them talking than any character in the main event issues. Dick and Damian both act solo which make the situation worse. Jason and Tim are the ones that work as a team to watch after the kids and escape. Yet their mostly used as wallpaper throughout the event and we're supposed to believe they can be defeated by DAMIAN. Their disrespected and the impression I get is that we're supposed to see the other two as better Robins despite them causing most of the chaos.
Gordon has a small part as his role as a cop conflicts with his belief in the heroes of Gotham. I will admit he is somewhat likable at times but he also suffers from the plot. Despite his misgivings he arrests minors, doesn't question why their in already prepared cages until much later and only does anything after Dick confirms his suspicions. Other than that he doesn't really seem to care that none of these kids were trained by Batman and are risking their lives.
The Court of Owls really come out looking like idiots despite (somehow) getting what they wanted. Lincoln March was considered an enemy of the Court but they apparently kept digging him up to ask him if he had any good ideas. You know, the same March they wanted destroyed after he killed off some of their members and betrayed them. Now their fine with this deranged guy leading them and he doesn't seem to care that Bruce (who he's obsessed with) is vulnerable. Except when he's using Bruce as a threat against Damian. Why they want Dick is vague. They tease the Nightwing mantle but it's never used. At one point March claims they want Dick dead then turns around to say they do want him to work with them. ...Why? Dick can apparently beat up March even though fighting March almost killed Bruce. Did everyone forget March had powers?
The overly complicated plan to get Dick back made no sense. At one point they said they wanted a Robin to join them to get leverage against Dick. How would the Robins know that since the Court tried to get Jason and Tim to kill each other? Why would they do that when the official Robins are the ones Dick is most connect to? Why not kidnap Bruce, get Damian to turn/strap him to a bomb and THEN get Dick to turn? Instead they get the attention of the whole city and pointlessly risk themselves at the police station for a useless death match? Remember the COO are still considered myths at the end of the event (despite Talons showing up everywhere.) Where were the police during the death match anyway? The group that's supposed to remain hidden in the shadows plotting in secret come off like idiots.
The important questions about the We Are Robin movement are not properly addressed for more than a fleeting moment. By making this a set up along with Dick's actions and the Court killing off the WAR member responsible we're denied what would have been a much more appealing story. Instead the narrative ignored the questions it raised to make this a mindless "us vs. them." It's obvious no one wants to address the issue since their trying to sell all of these characters but why bother calling attention to it in the first place? The best attempt to discuss the problem came from Gordon who admits he had to get over Dick being the boy wonder relating it to defending his home. Then the new kids are basically given a pass for no real reason and all concern for ethics goes out the window which just feels insulting. Like the more engaging story elements are being perceived as too complex for the audience.
The haphazard way this is written doesn't add up. There's a lot of things that don't work like information (Jason and Damian having died) that makes no sense in the context it's given that seems to be present solely for new readers. There's a noticeable amount of these moments that distract you because of how nonsensical it's written. None of them even fit into the story although you'd think they would if their mentioned as awkwardly as they are. If they had to be put in then why not do it through narrative boxes rather than stilted out of place dialogue? Writers can't keep track of why characters acted certain ways or know how they behave making this a contradicting mess. The text boxes we do get try too hard to be humorous which doesn't work with the serious tone their trying to have and are more unless than helpful.
I don't feel the least bit sorry or worried for Dick because of the way he was written. Dick literally brought this on himself the moment he had the Robins locked up. Despite suspecting a set up he never worries about his family even though he only went back to the spy business to protect Bruce/stop the people blackmailing him. The Robin that was previously known as being one of the greatest leaders in DC abandons everyone which puts them all at risk. Dick promised not to keep things from his adopted brothers but he does which is why he fails. He doesn't trust, respect or work with any of them which is one of the reasons this event falls flat. Those are traits of the Robin legacy which are spit on to try to elevate him without realizing how horrible it makes him look. As predicted Dick gets away with this because few writers actually want to deal with the problems they created or make the character take responsibility for their actions.
Likewise Damians' behavior isn't even addressed and he can continue to mock Jason/Tim to his hearts' content without anyone telling him off. No one feels bad for what they did. For a story about heroes it doesn't have most of them act the part. The ones that actually make the effort are demeaned while the others get away with their actions having learned nothing.
Small details that make zero sense:
- Tim says that he needs to learn more about these kids despite keeping tabs on them. He makes sure Jason realizes he's not outright agreeing to help people they don't know. And that's just in this event, the lead up in Gotham Academy #11 had Tim working with Maps because he mistakes her for a WAR member. He showed no problem supporting WAR kids there.
- Jason, for no reason, thinks the WAR kids don't need training in the Teen Titans tie in. In the context of this event it makes less sense as they have been training them and Jason has stated these kids aren't as skilled as them at least twice previously. Jason himself received training before becoming a Robin.
- Also in TT Tim states the kids need training and shouldn't be there. Which doesn't add up with his portrayal in Gotham Academy #11. The real Robins were already training them and the whole reason Dukes' group was with them was to show them a secret passage they didn't know about. In other words Jason and Tim had a meaningless argument that doesn't even fit their characterization in the event.
- Damian taunts Tim and Jason in Robin War #1 and a lot of his insults are nonsensical. He calls out the fact Jason died which Tim has to actually correct by saying Damian died too. Why doesn't Damian remember he died? If anything he shouldn't be bringing it up in the first place. Much less Tim Drake trying to use it as a reason he's awesome.
- Jason mentioning the fact Tim was never Robin in this canon but rather Red Robin. Something that no one has ever treated oddly within the context of this DCU. Also Jason would never refer to anyone being a "real" Robin (even if he says no offense to Tim) because he doesn't even believe he was more than a placeholder.
- When Damian is being a brat that acts like he's going to attack Jason and Tim they mention calling Dick in. Tim says Jason stole his idea since Jason wanted to knock Damian out, which doesn't fit the character. Jason is mostly calm and collected around Damian while TIM is the one who usually gets into fights with him. So it's more likely that Tim would want to knock him out. Plus Jason taking credit makes no sense.
- Jason joking about the kids he's testing dying and thinking of a way to blame Tim. If you think that JASON TODD would joke about kids dying or shifting the blame is in character you don't know who Jason is.
- Alfred despite creating the We Are Robin movement NEVER shows up or even gets mentioned. Not even when Jason, Tim and Damian are captured and in danger.
- The Robin Laws state that anyone dressed in Robin clothing will be arrested. Jason and Tim are taken in with the rookie Robins despite neither wearing anything that meets the description. Now you could argue Tim is Red ROBIN but Jason wears a bat symbol. He might be imprisoned for other acts, right? Nope. TT tries to say anyone in costume will be arrested but this isn't mentioned anywhere else. It still doesn't explain why their held with the kids from WAR.
- Damian somehow being able to knock Jason and Tim out. Both of them have defeated him in the past. Jason was able to stand toe to toe with Bruce while holding back. This is pure bullshit.
- How the hell do Dick and Damian know two separate ways to get into the Owl lair? Damian somehow managing to get there ahead of Dick. Neither Jason or Tim know how to get there without the WAR members showing them where a Talon came from.
- Why don't the people of Gotham believe the Court exists despite Talons showing up and the fact they live in a world with aliens?