Robin Watch: Harper Row Gets It Right
Welcome to a new, ongoing feature here at Henchman-4-Hire! By now we all know that the most recent Robin, Damian Wayne, died in the heat of battle. And so for the first time since the late 80s, Batman is without a Robin. But like how chocolate needs peanut butter and peanut butter needs jelly, Batman needs a Robin, so it’s only a matter of time before a new hero rises into that iconic role.
Being the huge Robin fan that I am, I’m going to cover the ongoing search for a new Robin. Whether it happens in the comics themselves or maybe interviews with the writers and creators, I’m going to stay on the front lines of Batman journalism – which, of course, is the best kind of journalism.
Let’s kick things off with this week’s Batman #18, one of the first comics to deal with the fallout of Damian’s death. Writer Scott Snyder has taken the curious tactic of having the issue star Robin frontrunner Harper Row as she tries to help a grieving Batman.
I was a big fan of this issue, and my full review will go up on Saturday with the rest of the Hench-Sized reviews. But first I want to explore this issue for the ways in which it pushes Harper ever closer to becoming the new Robin. I recently wrote several articles about this subject, both on why I fully support Harper as the new Robin, as well as the criteria that goes into picking a successful new Robin.
Suffice to say, in this issue, Harper Row gets everything right.
Join me after the jump to see what I mean.
For those who don’t know, the current Robin recently died in an issue of the comic Batman Incorporated. Batman will always have a Robin, so the search is on for a replacement. The leading contender is a character named Harper Row, a street smart girl from the Narrows who was created by writer Scott Snyder in the comic Batman. I’m a big fan of Harper from what we’ve seen so far, and I think she’d be perfect as the new Robin.
And Batman #18 thinks so too.
My previous articles established a key point about Batman and Robin: Whenever Batman chooses the new Robin, it ends in disaster. When the Robin chooses Batman, it’s a great success. As a result, Batman never seems to recognize the successful Robins when they come to him. He usually doesn’t want their help, and it’s only after they prove themselves that he’s willing to accept them as his partner. The most successful Robin, Tim Drake, started out exactly like that. Batman didn’t want his help, but Tim recognized the need in Batman to have a sidekick, to have someone to watch his back and keep him grounded in his humanity. Tim was Robin for upwards of 15 years, and he was the first Robin to headline his own solo comic book, which ran for more than 100 issues.
I think DC needs a Robin like that in order to bolster their rebooted New 52 universe. Unless they plan on killing/replacing Robin every few years, they need someone who can go the distance, who can really give the rebooted timeline its own character. Plus, DC knows that comics in the Batman franchise sell like hotcakes, and they don’t currently have a solo Robin series in the stores anymore. So they need to create a character that the fans will like, who will come into Batman’s life naturally, who can stand the test of time and, most importantly, sell comics.
That’s Harper Row.
In Batman #18, Bruce Wayne is dealing with the grief of his son’s death the only way he knows how: by beating up criminals. But he’s pushing himself too hard as Batman. Harper, being the big Batman fan that she is, has noticed this change to the Dark Knight, and she wants to help him.
But, to her credit, Harper doesn’t just design her own Robin costume and present herself to Batman as the new Robin. That’s a mistake that Stephanie Brown made, and it got her killed. And Batman didn’t just snatch Harper Row up and force her to be his new Robin, which is the mistake he made with Jason Todd.
Though Harper is not without some kind of costume. She wears a black bodysuit, but she has no intention of being Robin. In fact, the word ‘Robin’ is never even mentioned in the comic. This is very good. Batman doesn’t say he’s considering Harper to be his new Robin. And Harper doesn’t tell him that she wants to be his new sidekick. This is exactly how a new Robin’s origin should go.
Harper just wants to help Batman because, in his grief, he clearly needs some help.
But Batman, being Batman, doesn’t want her help. He tells Harper to get lost!
But Harper, being Harper, isn’t about to give up on him. She has a goal, she wants to help; even if Batman specifically tells her that he doesn’t want her help, Harper is too determined and too strong-willed to just stop. So she appeals to Bruce Wayne – not knowing that he’s secretly Batman – to help her send a message to Batman. Bruce is touched by Harper’s message and he later apologizes to her as Batman.
For once, they share a nice scene together that doesn’t involve Batman yelling at her. But again, neither one of them addresses the idea that Harper might be the new Robin, because that’s not what this is about. Neither one is even thinking of that possibility. She’s just a big fan who wants to help him in his time of need, and Batman is grateful for her help.
They end the issue on good terms.
We’ll see Harper next in June in Detective Comics #21, where she joins Batman on a case. Based on the cover, she’s still wearing her black bodysuit, but she’s helping Batman! That’s a good sign. Perhaps DC plans to stretch out Harper’s growth into Robin, which I think is a great idea. There’s absolutely no need to dress her up in costume right away. Let her grow as a character, let her relationship to Batman grow, and give Batman some time to operate solo for awhile. Then when everything is in place, when she’s ready, Harper Row can become the new Robin.
She’s definitely taken the first successful steps.
Stay tuned for my next Robin Watch segment whenever we get some news about who might be the new Robin!