One of the most popular comic book genres in the world is the shonen manga—Japanese comics featuring highly kinetic action, colorful characters with unique skills and abilities, and typically youthful protagonists. Long running shonen series like Naruto, One Piece and My Hero Academia have captured the world’s imagination, and in each of these series, one inevitable point in the hero’s journey always stands out: the venerable Tournament Arc.

The Tournament Arc is a special time in any shonen’s life when all of the unique characters established through the series, alongside new challenging figures yet unexplored, face off against each other to determine which of them is the strongest. Unique battles with surprising twists, dramatic stakes and new breakthroughs in abilities define these watershed stories. Indeed, the quality of a series’ Tournament Arc is typically a testament to the quality of the series as a whole.

So, when Joshua Williamson and Gleb Melnikov set out to create a solo Robin book for Damian Wayne, they turned to the most popular comics in the world for inspiration. And, seeing the wealth of shonen material out there, they decided not to waste any of our time and just get right to the good stuff. Robin: The Lazarus Tournament is all Tournament Arc. And frankly, we’re glad they did it.

The Premise:

Damian Wayne, the heir to both Ra’s al Ghul and the Batman, has been having a rough time of it. The murder of his beloved friend and father figure Alfred Pennyworth still looms large in his mind. So, it’s understandable, if concerning, that one day Damian vanishes from Gotham City without a trace. We follow him on his way to a mysterious locale called Lazarus Island, where the enigmatic Mother Soul offers invited guests the chance to compete for a fabulous prize: the gift of life everlasting. To earn it, those invited must prove their worth by competing in an elimination fighting tournament…to the death. Except, curiously, everyone who dies on Lazarus Island is immediately resurrected. For once, there’s no reason for Damian Wayne to hold back. It’s an outlet that the frustrated son of Batman desperately needs but perhaps not one that can last. With the unlikely help of his fellow combatants for the prize, Damian may learn that the only way to move forward is if he stops closing himself off.

Let’s Talk Talent:

One of the primary architects of the DC Universe as we know it today is Joshua Williamson, helming DC’s major events of the modern era from Infinite Frontier, through Shadow War and Dark Crisis, and up to this summer’s Knight Terrors. For Lazarus Tournament, Williamson utilizes his broad scope of the universe to gather the greatest martial arts characters DC has ever produced all into one place, all for one reason: to put Damian Wayne up to his greatest challenge yet.

(Well, most of them. Some had their own stuff going on at the time. And a rival faction paid off Lady Shiva not to enter. A smart move, or she would have creamed everyone.)

If you’re not already familiar with the work of Belarusian artist Gleb Melnikov, then this book is the perfect place to start. Featuring some of the freshest looks ever designed for Robin, Ravager and Connor Hawke, Melnikov’s sense of character design spawns at least a dozen characters the artistically inclined among you won’t be able to resist drawing yourselves. Melnikov’s sense of anatomical motion keeps the fight scenes exciting and frenetic, while his range of emotional expression allows the quieter moments space to breathe. Big ups to Big Gleb.

A Few Reasons to Read:

  • FIGHT!: Did we mention this is a martial arts story? Lazarus Tournament promises a tournament right in the title, and my friends, that is exactly what you get here. No shortcuts, no cop-outs, no dreams or hoaxes in sight. Nothing but incredible fights with definitive winners and losers. If you’ve ever debated the question of “who would win in a fight,” Lazarus Tournament is exactly the kind of book you wish you had every month.
  • FRIENDSHIPS!: Apart from the Tournament Arc staple, another must-have in any shonen manga is a strong group of friends at its center and an overarching message that the power of friendship can overcome all obstacles. On Lazarus Island, Damian makes a new group of friends all his own—from already beloved characters like the sardonic Rose Wilson and the mysterious but warm-hearted Connor Hawke, to brand new ones like the flirty, gothy Flatline, sidekick to Lord Death Man and soon to be your new obsession.
  • Robin vs. Robins: Bat-Family fans, you’re not getting left out. While this story is decidedly Damian-centric, we do get an unforgettable break in the story when all four of Damian’s predecessors—Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown—arrive to take Damian home when they get a whiff of the dangerous path he’s set himself on. But as each member of his family challenges him, Damian demonstrates that he just might them better than they know themselves. (Or, at the very least, enough to shake them while he handles his own business.)
  • Secrets of the al Ghuls: Robin: The Lazarus Tournament isn’t just a nonstop action buffet—it’s all predicated over a mystery with far-reaching implications for Damian Wayne and his family. Lazarus Island holds secrets beneath its surface that will change everything you know about the legacy of the League of Assassins.
  • Emotional Growth: One of the greatest tragedies of Damian Wayne’s life was in City of Bane, when he was forced to watch as one of his father’s greatest enemies snapped Alfred Pennyworth’s neck right in front of him. Throughout Lazarus Tournament, it’s the memory of Alfred which drives Damian forward on a quest to make peace with his soul over his failure to save a man he loved. Will Damian find his absolution? That would be telling.

Why It’s Worth Your Time:

Robin: The Lazarus Tournament is a book with character, heart, important revelations and some of the finest fight scenes set to paper as it all comes to a head in a final round we still go back and revisit today. For those of you who follow the DC Universe as a whole, it’s also an important book for understanding the scope of the recent Shadow War and Batman vs. Robin events, and sets up stories that will continue to pay off in Williamson’s Batman and Robin and Green Arrow. If you want a full understanding of the DCU as it is today, you can’t miss Lazarus Tournament. If you’re invested in the personal growth of Damian Wayne, you can’t miss Lazarus Tournament. And if you’re a punch junkie who goes nuts whenever superheroes duke it out, you absolutely cannot miss Larazus Tournament.

Robin: The Lazarus Tournament is available in print as a softcover collection and as a digital graphic novel. You can also read it in full on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.

Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for Follow him on Twitter at @AlexJaffe and find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Alex Jaffe and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros., nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.