"Where are you getting the ice?"
This is part 3 of a min-run, and although I intend to talk about all the parts as a whole, at least parts 2 and 3, the action and the adventure does hit it's peak in this last issue, so it is arguably the best of the 3. Cliff hangers happen in the last two, terrifying stuff too as we discover Robin's worst fears, and new mysteries as answers to the old (current?) ones, boy it really is a good detective/intelligence gathering story! A bigger villain replaces the last as the action builds up. (But none of that stuff matters because this review is hugely on the art.) We're given a villain, "gears" and his attachee, at the beginning, from actually prior to the entrance to the 3-part run, so I'm actually recapping a story that's running through... well No Man's Land has been running for 1 more issue than the Rats 3-parter, but the continuation of this part of the series goes back to before Cataclysm, the last earth shattering event, when Tim allowed himself to get close to Spoiler. So, a good 20+ issues. We all know Tim and Spoiler sort of ended up together, but he was dating Ariana then, a girl he rescued from the elite ranks of the Russian mobs and their mercs, He was torn between the Betty&Veronica/Lois&Lana/Nocturne&Selena situation for some time before he decided to let Ari go and live a little with the spontaneous, purple-clad blonde babe all the fans thought was a better match. Now, Spoiler's actually missing in these few issues, actually (but we do get to see a new BATGIRL around this time) but there is one significant change in this issue compared to the last few twenty,
Staz Johnson was drawing from the time Rhaz al Ghul tried to kill Paris, (I'm aware that's a City, but yeah that's what he does. He doesn't target one guy or two, the League of Assassins try to put out an entire population under before anyone gets it), with a couple breaks here and there. But Johnson was dominating from before Cataclysm, actually from somewhere close to Contagion. But this issue is done by a different artist, Gordon Purcell. Now, the Penciller only draws pencils, and colouring and inking are the jobs of colorist and inker respectively, (didn't see that coming did ya? Blew your minds!) But neither colourist Adrienne Roy, who's coincidentally involved in SO many good issues, nor Faucher have changed since the last issue, only Gordon did. And what differences do we notice between last ish and this?
Robin's got a fever, and a girl's holding ice to his forehead (and "where are you getting this ice?" becomes an important part to solving the mystery, which technically we already know from last issue, but Tim + crew don't) But this girl who's holding the ice, nursing Tim,... something interesting happens to her. She changes colour! This could be Adrienne Roy, but I'm thinking it could have been pencils too. In the last issue, after Robin passes out,
a little bit about spoilers; of course there are going to be some here. It's a review, not a preview, we're going back to the material after we've read it.
Robin's passed out, he was chased and bitten by rats, now he's got a fever, and when he wakes up, he's been found byyyy..... a bunch of kids who have dropped out of the ways of the civilized, and are imitating primitive humans. The leader's wearing an animal that I don't want to know how he acquired, there are bow slingers, and one of the girls is dressed as... an African voodoo priestess? It looks very offensive tbh. But I mean, that's the point isn't it? Gotham's just gone through an APOCALYPSE. Let's make that clear, people are fighting for scraps, children are living underground and forming their own societies. And if a white kid can wear a skin like a German Berserker, (although not shedding his spectacles) then why not an African American child dressed according to her heritage? (this is the last issue, up to here, just to be clear)
But there is a more appealing artistic change in this issue, that is the way this girl is dressed and how she appears. I'm assuming it IS the same girl because in the last ish, Robin's left in the care of a young nurse while the party heads out, and when this one begins, Robin's alone with the nurse. We never learn her name till the 3rd ish ("Shondra Reifsnyder"), and there was a group of kids there, so it COULD be different girls. Both girls do have a tattoo-like marking around their eye (although the first girl's marking is around her left eye, and the second girl's marking is on the right. Different eyes) Here, she's wearing jeans and a t-shirt, has a more hippy-ish or "flower child" style about her. Even a kid lost in the sewer could have changed attire from jungle chick to Hippie, but did she need to jump race? i mean, if this was a TV show, it's like firing one actor from one actor, and hiring a completely different actor to play the same role. Will people be able to follow?
Comic books are concepts, as much as the cowl of the Bat, or the cape of Robin (or the Mask of Zorro, because ultimately Batman stories boil down to other things, one of which, perhaps the most influential part, happens to be Zorro) is. The person who wears the Mask is almost insignificant, but it's the power of that symbol that counts. Why Superman chooses to be Superman, rather than Ubermensch, how Batman can be strong enough to protect people, how Flash uses Science, how Wonder Woman is a Woman of Wonder, how Cap fights for America, how Iron Man is... a dick, unfortunately.
Unless you put colour to the face, characters are ambiguous. If you leave the paper black & white, the reader is open to their own interpretation. Superman is an ALIEN. He may look human, but what does "human" mean? After the Hero of Hawaii take and Dean Cain, even Kristin Kreuk as Lana in Smallville, I'm pretty used to the idea of an Asian Superman. Not completely Asian, but maybe Hispanic or White guy that looks Asian, like the people from places like Kazhakstan. Would a Black Batman, Hispanic Flash or an Indian Wonder Woman or an Arabian G.L. have a huge impact on a story, in modern times? And I'm not saying certain characters shouldn't look a certain way. Depending on the decade, certain people would have to be of a certain creed if they wanted to inherit multi-millions and mansions, and caves,... we're talking about Batman. On a certain thread about this topic, during the days of Miles Morales, or Thor, the movie, right here on Comicvine, some dude said something very smart. Heimdall is a NORSE character. HOW the #@!$ is he BLACK? No that makes no sense. A kid from Brooklyn being Black is possible, but Heimdall isn't. The Germans believed in a superior race with blonde hair and blue eyes, and Captain America, the guy who proved to probably be their biggest adversary, was himself blonde haired and blue eyed. So the guy says, Cap's attributes help to support his position. A Jew would obviously want to fight Hitler, but Steve Rogers fighting Hitler emphasizes the morals of the man, disregarding the benefits of a lie to fight for the truth.
Getting back to the issue, there are clear attributes given to this character here on different issues, making the character almost look like different people. But it IS the same character, because even if Shondra's case was overlooked, look at how Montoya looks here.
These panels are taken from later issues, but the the difference is in Johnson and Purcell. Staz Johnson drew Montoya (and Bullock) on the left, and Purcell drew them on the right. We can tell Bullock is Bullock by the context of the story, (and because we've gone through 70+ issues of Robin comics, if we've been reading all of them, as loyal fans of the era) and that Montoya is Montoya. Honestly those eyes look a bit too big to be Staz? But Bullock hasn't changed too much in these panels, except that his tie changed from yellow to red. I'm not sure if that was a political statement, Conservative vs Bill Clinton.
Shondra Reifsnyder. Rhonda who? That's a character that was only around for 2 halves of 2 issues, no one cares about her. She doesn't even make the character list on this page, because she doesn't have a CHARACTER PAGE!. But Montoya, now she's more of a regular. Not the lead character or anyone in the topmost ranks, not even as important as Spoiler or Ariana right this minute. What happens when you race bend someone like that. That's almost like, say... taking the Cigar out of Nick Fury's mouth and replacing it with Lawrence Fishburne! Wrong? nah, it can work. Necessary?.... not NECESSARY, but why not?