Adam Beechen, in my opinion, writes the best Robin since Chuck Dixon, and Freddie Williams is up there with my favorite Robin artists. I've just finished Robin: Teenage Wasteland, and with the Cassandra Cain fiasco behind us (for the most part), Beechen offers up nine Robin issues here, all of which are spot-on in story and characterization; Robin hasn't been better than this in a long time.
Beechen writes a somewhat grim Robin; after the death or injury of Robin's parents, Superboy, Spoiler, Batgirl, and others in this tale, Robin drives himself with a "no one else dies" mania. This is not the laughing Boy Wonder of days of yore, but the black-and-white in which Robin sees the world is perfectly true to his youth. This is in no way, however, a "dark" book--there's humor and spots of light, especially surrounding what's billed as Tim Drake's "first date." This is hardly his first, but rather his first date with his tutor Zoanne, and Beechen strikes a nice balance between playing to Robin's youth and at the same time acknowledging his relative long time as a super-hero.
The two main storylines here deal with Robin offering up himself as a decoy to stop a group of kidnappers, and Robin tracking down a drug-ridden young street gang trying to kill a reporter. Both of these stories are gritty and down-to-earth, and Robin's role in them is clear, as opposed to Robin simply acting as a stand-in for Batman or Nightwing. Beechen uses Robin's new status as Bruce Wayne's adopted son well in the first story, as Bruce must make a tearful plea--only partially an act--for Robin's safe return. The second story ties into Robin's dating life, as Zoanne's father works for the company making the gang's drugs; in both of these, Beechen demonstrates excellent writing here, making Robin's challenges more than just plot devices, but rather obstacles that affect his life overall.
I was most wary of the Klarion the Witch-Boy story included here, fearing it wouldn't mesh with Seven Soldiers, despite art assists from Frazer Irving. Instead, the Klarion tale is right in line with Klarion's Seven Soldiers portrayal, and should make perfect sense to Seven Soldiers fans. Ordinarily I think the Gotham heroes work best in "real," rather than supernatural, stories, but Beechen pulls this off; the relative speed of the story, Klarion's age, and the overall coolness of Beechen's Robin help to pull this off.
For longtime Batman fans, the interaction between Batman and Robin in this story could be nothing less than startling. Batman tends almost a little too far toward the emo side of things in Beechen's portrayal--at one point, Bruce asks Robin if he'd like Batman to stay and talk before Batman goes on patrol; at another, Batman stops to ask Robin about his date. After years of the grim and gritty Batman, this is a nice change in Batman, even if it seems just slightly overdone. One big surprise is that, when Batman interrupts Robin's date, Robin begs off the mission and Batman agrees; in a generic super-hero storyline, the hero would indeed have to interrupt his date, and there's a sense here that Robin makes the wrong choice, though the fact that Batman is OK with it is just further proof of the growth, at last, of their relationship.
[Contains cover thumbnails.]
I'm curious if there are any Robin readers out there who didn't like Robin: Wanted because of what happened to Batgirl, who read Robin: Teenage Revolution. What did you think of it? For me, this book ran on all cylinders--even the done-in-one "after-school special" suicide story worked with the book overall. Someone else who read this, what did you think?
The reviews keep coming and they don't stop! Hope you'll come back, too.