Batman/Superman: World’s Finest is bringing the Silver Age crashing back to modern comic book shops. The new series, which is drawn by Dan Mora, written by Mark Waid, colored by Tamra Bonvillain, and lettered by Aditya Bidikar, features Superman and Batman teaming up to do battle with a shadowy villain who poisons Superman. It brings back ’60s/’70s aesthetics to Batman and Superman’s costumes, hinges on classic red kryptonite shenanigans, and enlists the aid of one of DC’s weirdest teams.
And oh yeah, the Doom Patrol perform open-heart surgery on the Man of Steel…
Mind you, that’s just in the opening pages of the second issue.
But the most retro thing about the series … and the most fun … might just be the presence of Dick Grayson, AKA Robin.
That’s right, we said “Dick Grayson, Robin.” Not Nightwing, not Batman, not Agent of Spyral, or even “Ric.”
In Batman/Superman: World’s Finest, which is set in the “not-too-distant past,” Dick is 17-18 years according to Waid and still in his old superhero identity and costume (yes, some of that is pantsless), and more importantly, back to his original role in Batman stories. And in what’s already a fun romp of a series (so far) Waid and Mora might be having the most fun with their perfect use of the Boy Wonder.
Superman/Batman: World’s Finest #1 (opens in new tab) begins in Metropolis, where Poison Ivy has set a trap for the Man of Steel. She’s surprised when the Dynamic Duo shows up instead, screaming in surprise, “Batman?!” To this, Robin grumbles his own name, frustrated to not even get a reaction from the villain. And right off the bat, the World’s Finest team establishes Robin as the story’s comic relief. It’s a role he keeps throughout the first two issues of the series, providing some genuine laughs in some very tense, very weird moments.
Now, “comic relief” isn’t precisely at the root of Robin’s creation, but it comes somewhat close. When Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson, and Bob Kane created the character in 1940, they intended to get younger readers into Batman’s adventures. Dick was meant as a colorful companion to offset the darkness of a pulp vigilante like Batman. Just like his original incarnation, the Batman of World’s Finest is brooding and serious, allowing the wise-cracking Dick Grayson to fulfill his original role.
But jokes aren’t the only thing that Robin is good for in this new series. In the weird and wild world of the new World’s Finest, Robin provides a perspective from a “normal” person (as normal as a crime-fighting acrobat teen can be, that is). When Superman is poisoned by Red Kryptonite, Batman dives headfirst into the problem as the world’s greatest detective. It’s up to Robin to point out that the whole situation is, well, kind of freaky. It might not be the most helpful thing, but it’s definitely what you and I would do.
Here, too, was another reason Robin was created. Batman’s early days of crime-fighting involved a lot of inner monologues so that the reader could follow his deductive reasoning. Eventually, his creators realized there was a better way to follow a detective solving a mystery, which was to give them a sidekick. A Watson to their Sherlock. Robin was created and, according to The Artifice (opens in new tab), Batman had a character to explain his reasoning to.
Then, when Batman’s adventures got even more ridiculous, it was Robin who would point out their insanity and marvel at Batman’s skill in navigating them. Remember Burt Ward’s Robin from the Batman TV show? Most of his dialogue was wondering at the danger the Dynamic Duo found themselves in. That’s the same thing Robin is doing in World’s Finest, albeit with some less dated expressions.
Still, if Mark Waid manages to get “Holy Graf Zeppelin” into this book somewhere, we wouldn’t be mad.
Very few comic book characters have evolved quite like Dick Grayson has. He’s been a sidekick, superspy, has replaced the hero he ‘side-kicked’ for a few times, and for decades now has been a hero all on his own. And yet, stories like World’s Finest prove that each of these iterations is as valid as the others. For all the people Dick Grayson has been, each one is full of great storytelling possibilities and vital roles to play.
Even the one without pants.
Speaking of Robin without pants, one just happens to top Newsarama’s list of the best Robins (opens in new tab) of all time. Guess who it is?