I wanted to like this trade. I really did.
Batman: Second Chances collects various issues depicting the backstory of one Jason Todd (aka Robin Number Two) and his numerous exploits with the caped crusader.
I admit to not knowing all that much about this second Robin incarnation (other than the one major spoiler of what eventually becomes of him – but more on that in a later post). I had enjoyed various versions of Dick Grayson’s origin, and often liked his pairing with Batman, so I thought there was a good chance I’d like this collection as well.
Sadly, a lack of proper characterization and story development kept me from loving this trade.
I had high hopes when I first started reading. The first few pages issues me in, especially with such creative symmetry as was shown in these panels, in which Tommy Carma, a deranged individual, believes himself to be the one and only Batman:
This was a particularly powerful set of panels, and it let me to believe that there could be some interesting stories here.
Sadly, this seems to have been the pinnacle of character development for the trade.
We’re given the story of what led to the original Robin parting ways with Batman, as well as how Jason Todd came to meet everyone’s favorite masked vigilante.
Essentially, Batman tries to steer Jason Todd straight, away from an inevitable life of crime, sees him engage in one fight, and decides to make him the new Robin:
Seriously, this is it. They each say “Robin” with a different inflection of tone, and that’s it. He’s the new sidekick.
This reads more like some child’s fantasy about someday becoming Batman’s sidekick, instead of an even remotely plausible storyline. Especially considering the whole reason Batman insisted Dick stop being Robin was a fear for his safety, why then would he so nonchalantly take on a new Robin who is much younger, less experienced, and all-around a greater risk?
He wouldn’t, plain and simple. Batman is a lot of things, but I don’t think he’s reckless, not when it comes to the lives of those he cares about. This entire scenario felt so out of character that I found it utterly distracting from whatever story the writers were trying to tell.
On top of that, I found Jason Todd to be extremely annoying. Granted, I’m willing to admit that’s what the writers were going for here; after all, he’s a young, angst-ridden teenage boy. Still, he hardly screamed “hero” to me, or even “hero in training”. If anything he felt like a kid pretending.
Maybe that was the writers’ goal. Maybe they thought it would be easier for readers to connect to the new Robin if he acted the way they might act. Perhaps I’d find the character more relatable if I was a 12-year old boy. As it stands, I just found him frustrating.
My last (and biggest) grievance with this trade? Not one sassy Alfred moment. Seriously, not a single one in the entire trade, and believe me, I was looking for them. There were plenty of moments where I got irrationally excited, thinking, “Okay, this is it. This is the perfect setup for Alfred to let loose with one of his zingers” only to have him respond with a dull, “As you wish, sir.”
I’d like to formally request the opportunity to go back and completely rewrite all of Alfred’s lines. Obviously the writers had no idea how sassy they were supposed to make him.
Are the stories collected here important to the overall Batman lore? Absolutely. Were they presented in an engaging and thoughtful manner? Not so much. I’m glad I read them, but I’m also glad that they’re over.