A Review of Red Robin

One of my favorite DC Comics reads is Red Robin by Fabian Nicieza and Christopher Yost, alongside artists Ramon Bachs and later Marcus To. It’s a twenty-six issue long Tim Drake run from 2009 to 2011 and is his second solo run starting off around the time of Dick Grayson’s time as Batman and Damian Wayne as Robin.

I will be going over what the pros and cons are of this series, followed by why I would recommend it. However, before I do, I would like to briefly go over who Tim Drake is and why he took up the Red Robin moniker. Because while I know anyone familiar with DC and the Batfamily (the characters associated with and/or members of Batman’s family, by blood or adopted) will know who he is, not everyone will.

Who is Tim Drake?

Tim Drake is the third Robin introduced in 1989. After Jason’s untimely death in the four part Death in the Family story, Tim was brought in. Due to Batman becoming more volatile after Jason’s death, Tim believed that Batman needed Robin. Initially, he tried to convince Dick Grayson, who has been going by Nightwing since 1984, to become Robin. Dick refused, due to some previous tension and Nightwing being his preferred mantel, but agreed to try to approach Batman. At one point, even Bruce refuses the notion of taking in another Robin after what happened to Jason.

Tim would later get involved in a case that Batman and Nightwing. And after helping with getting them out of a tough spot, Bruce agrees to train him as Robin. During this training, he would learn what he needed to and lost his mother due to a business trip gone wrong involving his parents. His father would live, but not his mother, and his father would later remarry.

Tim, unlike his predecessors, was the first Robin who had living parents, and at first bounced between normal life with them and working alongside Bruce/Batman. During this time, Tim would also work alongside Young Justice (a group of young heroes similar to the Teen Titans, but much smaller) and eventually the Teen Titans alongside his Young Justice teammates, including the likes of Conner Kent (Superboy) and Impulse (Bart Allen). Tim would also have to deal with a recently resurrected Jason Todd, who wasn’t fond of Tim becoming Robin, nor all to pleased with Bruce. He and Tim would have a rocky relationship, though Tim never outright hated Jason.

However, Tim’s father would find out about Tim’s Robin duties and have him retire for a time. During this time, Stephanie Brown, then girlfriend of Tim’s, briefly took over. It wasn’t until after her supposed death that Tim returned as Robin, with his father’s approval.

Unfortunately, Tim would go through a slew of loss. After Stephanie’s supposed death, Conner would die during the Infinite Crisis while trying to fight Superboy Prime. His father would also die during this story, murdered by Captain Boomerang. These three characters would be people he would later contemplate reviving with the Lazarus Pit (pools of green water-like fluids that can restore injuries and revive the dead). However, he would decide against it and Stephanie Brown and Conner Kent ultimately returned alive and well later.

Unfortunately, Tim would go through a slew of loss. After Stephanie’s supposed death, Conner would die during the Infinite Crisis while trying to fight Superboy Prime. His father would also die during this story, murdered by Captain Boomerang. These three characters would be people he would later contemplate reviving with the Lazarus Pit (pools of green water-like fluids that can restore injuries and revive the dead). However, he would decide against it and Stephanie Brown and Conner Kent ultimately returned alive and well later.

Why Did Tim Become Red Robin?

Depending on the continuity, Tim Drake becomes Red Robin for one of two reasons. In the New 52, it had to do with him respecting Jason’s memory. However, before the New 52, where the Red Robin comic took place, Tim became Red Robin after Bruce’s supposed death (he wasn’t actually dead, just shot back in time from Darkseid’s Omega Beam). Dick took over as Batman and promptly took Damian Wayne as his Robin.

There are a few things that contribute to it. One being that Damian was made Robin. Tim was not counselled about it, but the reason for this was because of Damian’s history in the League of Assassins and needing someone to lead him in the right direction. Another being because he thought he could do more if he was not Robin. This is a reason that is further addressed in the latter part of his solo Robin run.

In the New 52, it was out of respect for Jason (his predecessor) and I don’t recall if Rebirth went in depth with it, but it may have been similar to the pre-New 52 continuity or a mix of the pre-New 52 and New 52 continuity. Funnily enough, Jason used the Red Robin moniker very briefly before Tim around the tail end of his Robin run. It was also used by Dick Grayson in the Elseworld story Kingdom Come. Neither used it for long, so Tim ended up taking it, and neither used it after the New 52 relaunch/reboot/timeline.

The Review

Now that I have addressed who Tim Drake is and why he became Red Robin, I would like to get into the review. I will go over some positives and negatives, followed by a conclusion. While this series may not be everyone’s cup of tea, nor am I expecting everyone who reads this to read the series, I would recommend anyone who hasn’t read Red Robin to check it out.

Positive: A Solid Tim Drake Solo

Out of the Robins, Tim Drake is probably the most underrated. The same could be said to Jason in the grander scope of the Batfamily, where the more utilized characters in it are, Batman, Nightwing, and Robin (Damian Wayne), as well as maybe Batgirl (barbara Gordon). However, since Jason has had his own series since the beginning of the New 52, and Tim Drake has been relegated to mostly team comics since (up until recently), I would argue that Tim Drake is the more underrated of the two and one that isn’t utilized as much.

With that in mind, the solo series Tim does get, are usually good. His solo Robin runs are some of the more fondly remembered series of the Modern Age and Red Robin is no different. Though a short series, only running for about 26 issues, what this series did for Tim were great.

It continued to develop Tim as a character and let him grow. It gave him cases that suited him and antagonists worth his skills. There were also characters that did really well in here, like Cass Cain (Batgirl and later Black Bat), Ra’s al Ghul, and the Teen Titans. And even Tim himself.

Negative: Some Arcs Weren’t as Good

While this series certainly has some good arcs and action, some arcs are certainly better than others. One area I wasn’t too fond of was the whole reaction to Tim having a contingency plan for Damian. While these two have a history of butting heads, I just wasn’t to invested in this arc. It was in character to a degree and I can understand both sides, fighting about it while on patrol wasn’t the place to have this issue brought to light.

Another arc I thought was weaker, was the Firefly arc. It certainly utilized Tim’s intellect and strategy, and utilized Miss Martian’s abilities well. However, I don’t think it was as strong as some of the other arcs.

Positive: The Art

This series transitioned from one artist to another. The first few issues were done by Ramon Bachs and the rest (for the most part) by Marcus To. Personally, I’m more of a fan of Marcus To’s work in the series. It’s sleek, the colors are bold, and I like the style. His style is what gave the series that added personality, giving each character the look that they needed, and didn’t look out of place.

Art is certainly a subjective area, and just because I like this style, that doesn’t mean everyone else will. That said, Marcus To is certainly a talented artist, and is certainly one of my favorites.

Negative: Some Characters Felt Out of Character at Times

While I do think that the characters were done really well for the most part, I would be lying if some characters felt off or out of character at times. I feel like this is more of an issue in the earlier issues and how some characters approached Tim in regards to Bruce’s “death”. Mainly, Dick Grayson.

On the one hand, it can be argued that Dick was trying to help Tim come to term with Bruce’s death. From his perspective, it could be seen as Tim denying the reality of it and not thinking straight. And in Dick’s mind he wanted to help him accept it. That said, how he approached it could be considered questionable or out of character. He approaches Tim a bit too bluntly and doesn’t seem to want Tim to come to term with it on his own terms. He even has Cassie (Wonder Girl) try to talk to him, but still doesn’t get through to him.

Once again, this could be seen as Tim being stubborn, being in denial, and teenaged angst. However, how it was went about could have been better. It also might have partially contributed to Tim getting in contact initially after he asks Dick to trust him. And when it was revealed that Bruce was in fact alive, there was no apology. No “I should have believed you” or “I shouldn’t have been so antagonistic with you”.

Positive: The Ra’s al Ghul Arc

If you ask anyone who has read the series what their favorite arc was in this series, they’ll most likely say the Ra’s al Ghul arc. I, personally, agree. It was also the arc I first jumped into after being strictly a manga person for years (which I still enjoy to a lesser extent). Bias aside, however, this arc is probably its strongest.

It has it set up where Tim finds himself working alongside the League of Assassins for a brief amount of time. He deals with the Council of Spiders and works alongside League of Assassins member, Pru. But when he goes against Ra’s, the centuries old assassin takes it personally and decides to take it out on everything and everyone Bruce holds dear.

Tim is not about to let that happen, and with the help from a few allies, including Batman (Dick Grayson), Robin (Damian Wayne), Conner Kent (Superboy), and the Teen Titans, Tim formulates a plan. This plan comes to a head when Tim finds himself fighting Ra’s al Ghul, a man he knows he does not have the physical strength to beat. Not that that won’t stop him from trying.

And while Ra’s al Ghul has gone up against the Robins in different ways, I would say that the rivalry/antagonistic role he has with Tim is one of, if not the best. Ra’s respects each of the Robins and is the one behind Jason’s revival and the maternal grandfather of Damian, as well as having an antagonistic approach to Batman (think the Moriarty to Batman’s Sherlock). However, his and Tim’s confrontation is a great one, and I’d even argue that Ra’s is Tim’s best villain.

Ra’s notes how Tim just how different he is from Bruce, Dick, and Jason, once noting how Tim already knew he won a particular fight. Tim also has an underlying respect for Ra’s, noting how Bruce had for how resourceful he is. Tim also knows that Ra’s isn’t one to take lightly, which was why he took Ra’s’ threat so seriously. It’s also worth noting that Ra’s refers to Tim as Detective at the end of their fight (before kicking him out of a window). “Detective” is an honorary term that only Bruce holds, and was Ra’s’ way of showing Tim respect. Because, while not able to beat Ra’s’ in a one v one (physical) fight, the fact that Tim was able to outwit him, was enough for him to respect Tim’s skills.

With this arc also taking up around the first half of the series (issues 1-12, which also tackles Dick approaching him about Bruce’s “death”) it certainly had time to develop the story it wanted to. Ra’s al Ghul was also a pleasure. He’s a villain who never gets used as often as say the Joker, Catwoman, or even the Riddler. So seeing him used was a great addition to the series. I only wish that they used Tim and Ra’s’ dynamic more.

Conclusion

Red Robin (2009-2011) is a wonderful series that appreciates one of Batman’s lesser appreciated allies and is a great title for Tim Drake. While there may be some instances of out of character moments and some arcs that aren’t as good as others, the art, Ra’s arc, character development, and being an overall solid story, makes this series a great read.

It was one of the first series I picked up after an age long stint in manga and was what helped me come to love the character. So, if you are looking for a good Batman/Batfamily read, I would recommend this series.

Published by ArtsyOwl

She/Her who enjoys fantasy, writing, DC Comics and more

2 thoughts on “A Review of Red Robin

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