I've been meaning to give Fabian Nicieza's run on "Red Robin" a whirl for a while now, but will freely admit that until this week, it had yet to happen. But Catman from "Secret Six" was on the cover, and it looked like a good enough jumping on point, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.
Now on the plus side, Nicieza was planning for new readers this month. It's a crossover with "Teen Titans," as it turns out, and so even though there's a larger story going on this is billed as an interlude. But with that in mind, Nicieza decided to use the first part of the issue to try and bring us new readers up to date. And, well..
Did someone get the number of that train that hit me? I think it said "exposition" on its side.
There is, to put it mildly, a lot of exposition in this issue. And as it's getting unloaded on the reader, Nicieza also keeps the story moving. In many ways the first ten pages of "Red Robin" #20 feel like an entire comic in its own right, there's so much crammed into them. While I appreciate a good compressed story as much as anyone else, this felt to be almost too much going on. At least for this new reader, it's hard to focus on what's happening with the constant barrage of information about new characters, situations, and a networked named the Unternet.
Fortunately the second half of the issue slows down, and that's where it got interesting enough that I want to see how this plays out. Robin's researching the bomber, talking to his fellow crime-fighters, and meeting up with the Teen Titans before flying to Istanbul? That's actually fun stuff. In many ways it's this slightly slower paced half that matches up in my head to what I expected "Red Robin" to be. It's a nice save, but I wish the entire issue was able to move at that speed.
Marcus To and Ray McCarthy's art is new to me, and overall it's not bad. It falls like so many superhero artists into the trap of over-accentuating the physiques (six pack abs plus being able to count ribs feels like a bit much), but To has some nice visual flairs here and there. I like the ghost-image chase scene between Red Robin and Catman over the rooftops, for instance; it's easy to follow, it feels like it's actually in motion, and it's fun to look at. Even a throw-away scene (like Batgirl versus Romeo Void) has a good sense of movement and a graceful look about it. To feels like a good choice for "Red Robin."
I'll give "Red Robin" another try next month, and hopefully it won't open at such a frantic pace. Still, considering this is all occurring mid-storyline, I suppose I should be glad it made as much sense as it did. Nothing world-shattering here, but it's just strong enough in the second half that the book ends on a positive note, and that counts for a lot.