Friday, June 9, 2017

Robin Annual #1 (1992)

Robin Annual #1 (1992)
"The Anarky Ultimatum"
Script - Alan Grant & John Wagner
Pencils - Tom Lyle
Finishes - Scott Hanna
Colors - Adrienne Roy
Letters - Tim Harkins
Assistant Editor - Scott Peterson
Editor - Dennis O'Neil
Cover Price: $2.50

Heyyy, it's the #BestEventEver, and it's finally time for my "official" contribution to the blog-cast crossover!  But Chris, I hear you saying, haven't you been talking about Eclipso all damned week?  To which I say, um... look directly into this diamond.

So yeah, Eclipso: The Darkness Within... one of the events that brought me into the DC Universe as a fan.  I'd be lying if I said speculation had nothing to do with it... but, I also felt like this could be a great way to learn a little bit about the DC heroes.  That idea would be, as many passions of a twelve-year old might be, short-lived.

It actually lasted until I saw, get this, the price tag.  I mean, $2.50 was a lot of money... that's like two-days of lunch money.  If I was gonna starve for two days, I'd damn sure better be able to buy more than one book.  This was actually the only tie-in I bought 'off the rack'... and you can see the reason why... if you look at the top-left corner of the cover.  Ya see that?  Yeah, I used to love the way a #1 looked on the cover of a comic book.  Of course, this was before a time when two-thirds of an average comic fan's collection would consist of #1 issues.

So yeah, I was bit by the speculation bug.  Never saw this as an "investment" issue, for whatever reason... perhaps because I was planning to buy all the Eclipso stuff anyway.  As I've discussed here (and elsewhere), it wouldn't be until November that I started buying some DC with regularity... but that was for something that might actually warrant the unironic use of the #BestEventEver hashtag.


We open with... sigh, Anarky climbing up the side of a building.  This is the building of famous sculptor Sergio Pantalone, who (I would assume) in earlier installments of the Eclipso annuals released some sculptures into the world with Black Diamonds on them... as black as a capitalist's heart, says Anarky... edgy.  Either way, our long-necked geek villain wants any diamonds Sergio has left!  I oughta mention that Sergio was watching the news when Anarky arrived, and the report discussed a "car of the future" powered by solar energy... and if you don't think that's gonna be important later, I dunno what to tell ya.

It just so happens that Robin is swinging by... well, okay he doesn't "just so happen" to swing by, he's on the job.  He sees that Pantalone's skylight has been busted up, and knows someone's beaten him to the punch.  Inside the artist explains that under the threat of face-melting, he handed over his remaining five black diamonds.  Robin glances out the window and, whattaya know, Anarky hasn't made it all that far!

Tim gives chase, and throws a Robin-rang at Anarky's swing-line... severing it... causing the baddie to plummet to an alley below.  Luckily there was garbage to break his fall, otherwise Robin might've just killed someone.  On the bright side, it would have signaled the end of this issue!

Robin swings down so they might have a chat... to which, Anarky drops the cutest, tiniest little smoke bomb.  He easily evades the Boy Wonder by leaving him in a... very tiny, cloud of smoke.  Like seriously... if Tim leans six inches in any direction, he's out of the cloud.

We follow Anarky down the street where he runs into a man who has recently lost everything.  His job, wife, car... you get the picture.  He's swigging some booze shouting at the Gotham People's Bank... blaming them for all of his problems, or at least drunkenly attempting to point out the hypocrisy of a bank being named after "the people".  Anarky sees him as an easy 'mark' for a black diamond.

It's not long before the man emits several plumes of black smoke which converge in the form of a beast-man with familiar Eclipso-ian word balloons.  Luckily, Robin meandered his way out of the four cubic feet of smoke to arrive on the scene.  Further, it's lucky he is armed with a solar flashlight... which drops the beast, unfortunately after it levels the bank.

Robin checks on the angry dude, and manages to reclaim the black diamond.  One down, four to go.  On his way to juvenile hall to follow up on Anarky, aka Lonnie Machin... who acts like a 14-year old because he is a 14-year old, he checks in with Batman to give a status update.  Once there he goes to log in to the baddie's computer, only to find it guarded with a dreaded passcodeword.  Whodathunkit?

Elsewhere Anarky is hiding out.  He stashes three of the four remaining black diamonds behind a false brick before readying a package for the mayor.  It's as though this fool is going for his junior-anarchists merit badge or something... the package is actually marked with the classic A-O anarchy symbol.  Yeesh.

Back at juvie, Robin is attempting to crack-the-code by trying to use names of famous anarchists... and when that doesn't work, he takes the chance-in-a-million shot of entering "codeword" as the codeword.  It works!  Which makes me realize that Anarky utilizes the same level of computer security as I used to when I worked in an office!  Good to know.

We rejoin Anarky as the Mayor is leaving a function.  He drops his package and flees.  The Mayor's security detail deduces it ain't a bomb by... well, opening it... great detective work there, slick.  No friends, it's not a bomb... it's actually a video tape.

Meanwhile, Tim's still a'typing and a'snooping.  We see that Anarky has access to Commissioner Gordon's files, and also that he is planning something he calls "the citizen's charter".  At the very same time, the Mayor is loaded into his limousine... where he pops the tape into the deck.  Why, it's Anarky!  And he's got himself some demands.  First: outlaw cars, second: double welfare payments, third: give homeless people houses, fourth: Commissioner Gordon fired and replaced by an elected citizen's committee.  I'd ask "What is he, fourteen?" but we already know the answer to that.

If his demands are not met, he promises to drop Gotham to its knees... and, as a sneak-preview for his powers, he intends to level the East Side Bridge that evening.  This takes us to... well, the East Side Bridge, which Anarky is sitting atop, black diamond in hand.  He says that he's been "careful" to hold in his feelings thus far... which seems a bit suspect, but we'll allow it... and now it's time to "really let rip".  He Eclipso's up (the moonface on his gilded mask is a nice touch) and destroys the bridge!

In a shocking demonstration of forethought, Anarky sets a solar flare to go off ninety seconds after he "lets rip".  It goes off just in time, and returns our boy to his non-Eclipsed self.

Back in juvie, Robin is copying all of Anarky's files.  Batman calls to check in on his progress, to which, Tim says he still doesn't know where Anarky might be.  Batman's all, "hey, maybe check the bridge that was just destroyed" and off he goes.  On the way out, Tim does notice some odd grains on the windowsill... and yeah, this will be important.

At the remains of the bridge, Batman and Robin plan their next moves.  Batman asks Robin to take a look around the Bradford Heights area, as that's where the Machin family stayed.  The morning comes, and before Tim can scadoo he must wait for his father to go away for the weekend.

With Pop out of the way, Tim hops on his ten-speed and heads to the heights.  He asks some of the locals if they know anything, but nobody's seen the family since they left the area five years earlier.  Nearby, young Lonnie is wandering the streets annoyed that, believe it or not, cars haven't yet been outlawed... and, there are still homeless people on the street!  He calls the Mayor to complain.

He reiterates his threats while the Mayor's staff traces the call.  One of the staff mentions the call is coming from Bradford Heights, causing Lonnie to tell them that if they're trying to trace the call... they can forget it.  B-b-but, they just did... right?  Anyhoo, Lonnie's annoyed, and hangs up the phone while a transient cheers him on.  Man of the people, that Lonnie!

Back with Tim, as he's about to give up the chase... he calls in to Alfred to inform him of all the "nothin" he found in Bradford Heights, when he happens to ride past Orlando Grain Millers.  Hmm... didn't he just find some grains on Anarky's windowsill?  The Boy Wonder Robins up, and wouldn'tcha know it, stumbles into Anarky's lair... which is helpfully marked with a giant A-O anarchy symbol.  He spots a marked map, and knows Anarky's next stop.

It's the Robinson Park Carnival!  And it's here we meet some teen-agers (tm. Bob Haney) who are engaging in some teen-age drama.  Ya see, Jimmy was dating Dinah, but then left her to be with Cindy.  Dinah didn't take this all that well, and when she confronted the couple, silver-tongued Cindy referred to her as a Dinah-saur (sick burn!) and pushed her into a garbage can.  I suppose I should mention here, the "dinosaur" thing's gonna come back around... 

Anarky is on a nearby tower plotting his next move.  He brandishes his black diamond, I suppose to look menacing while he monologues internally... and definitely not to set up the next scene.  Robin swings in, and kicks the baddie in the head, causing him to drop said black diamond, directly into the pocketbook of the irate Dinah-saur... which causes her to evoke a, sigh, dinosaur.

We rejoin Jimmy and Cindy as they are about to enter the tunnel of love.  They see the dark-dino and can hear Cindy's name being called out by its bestial voice.  Cindy's obviously a bit shaken, but Jimmy still wants to make out.  Ay yai yai.

The Eclipso-construct-dinosaur attacks, which causes Jimmy to flee... like ya do.  Before the beast can take a bit out of sweet Cindy, Robin swings in (I feel like I'm typing "Robin swings in" a lot) to save her.  He tosses some smoke pellets at the monster... and announces it, like he's an anime character pulling off a special move.

It's at this point that Anarky realizes he's going to have to work alongside Robin to take down the dino.  His attempts are rather less than successful at stopping the monster, but I suppose we can give him points for slowing it down.  The whole mishegoss wraps up at the roller coaster.  The dinosaur has Cindy in its mitts, Anarky is... somewhere... and Tim has commandeered the solar-powered car of tomorrow!

Which finally takes the beast down.

Robin rescues Cindy... and "thwips" Anarky.  As the pair of costumed-types leave the park, they comment on how they didn't make a bad team... ay yai yai... 


Well, for all the fun I poked at this during the synopsis, I didn't dislike this.  I suppose I oughta concede that I do consider this issue somewhat special due to nostalgia, remember where I was when I bought this, and what-not... but at the end of the day, it was a decent story.

The character of Anarky... for as annoying as he is... and, he most definitely is... he's a great example of a villain whose heart is in the right place, however, does not grasp the scope of what he'd demanding.  I think we all knew people like this in school... maybe you were like this in school.  You can see all of the problems in the world, and realize that there's an immediate and exacting solution for them... but don't think much further than that.  It's like sure, if all cars were taken off the road, the air would be cleaner... but then what?  If all homeless people were given homes, that'd be wonderful... but then what?  It's hard to swallow that sometimes things (and I hate this saying, because it usually feels like a cop out) "are what they are".

I am glad that Anarky is, in fact, a child.  It allows the writers to explore these concerns with a measure of naivety.  It's not subtle, but so few things are when you're an angry teen-ager out to fix the world.  I don't think I'd wanna go and seek out that short-lived Anarky ongoing DC put out in the mid-late 90's... but, as a one off villain, I'd say we could do far worse.

The Eclipso bent was central to the story, which is nice to see... it didn't feel "tacked on" in the slightest... which might be due to this being a special "on off" Annual.  Robin's own ongoing series hasn't even started yet (and wouldn't for over a year... though, there were miniseries') so this is very much a specified Eclipso special... starring Robin.  Pretty cool.

Overall, this is a silly story... but worth checking out.  I did give it a few jabs here, and it does drag here and again, but it's not bad.  I wouldn't pay cover price for it (again), and luckily, if you're interested... you probably won't have to.  This is almost always in the cheap-o bins (at least in my neck of the woods).  Can't imagine you'd have to pay more than a buck for this... unless of course, you want it digitally... then you're paying two bucks.

This wraps up my contributions to the #BestEventEver blog-cast crossover.  Before I go, I wanna thank them for including me... it's been a lot of fun, and I look forward to our next community-collaboration!


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The Darkness Continues...

Also remember you can follow along on Twitter using the hashtags #BestEventEver and #EclipsoTDW25

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