And so I finally come to the actual commission I was given. This was a long journey but I’m glad I did the lead up work. Trying to jump into this series would have been agony without laying the foundation for the character. Because this does represent the climax for Tim Drake. This is his graduation. His future.
Or it would have been if we hadn’t gotten Flashpoint which broke Tim. His history became a mess after this event so that the New 52 could focus on the popular Robins. It was made messier during Rebirth. Look, Tim’s story basically becomes incomprehensible after this point. I tried to see if the Wikipedia entry made it make sense. No. So we’re stopping here. Though the long story short is his history is what it was now.
Red Robin is an interesting series. It’s divided pretty sharply into two halves. The first, by Christopher Yost and Marcus To and Ramon Bachs on alternating arcs, finds Tim Drake searching for evidence Bruce Wayne is still alive post-Final Crisis. This puts him in league with and in conflict with the League of Assassins. The second half by Fabian Nicieza and primarily Marcus To is focused on Tim finding his identity as his own hero in Gotham. There’s a definite quality divide.
The first half is indisputably the best. It has a tight story and a clear focus. Tim is looking to prove a theory and he succeeds. There’s a very clear through line as he gets help from Ra’s al Ghul as he figures out from inside his order what his plans are for Gotham. It leads to a satisfactory conclusion. Yost is at his best here. Bachs and To deliver good classic art.
This half is itself the best Tim solo story ever. Tim is in charge. He’s still the tech genius he was. He’s still the detective. But the years have hit him. He’s weathered and cynical. His faith in Bruce Wayne is the only thing keeping him going. Tim needs to believe he’s okay because he owes him everything. Hell at this point he’s Tim Wayne since Bruce adopted him.
The decision to test Tim through his interaction with the League of Shadows is a brilliant one. It forces even a righteous cynic to see how far he can go down that hole. And Tim is stronger than the bleakness of the league. He emerges victorious because he has a cause.
Then there’s the next two quarters. And they’re a sharply mixed bag. The first arc, in fact the only real arc, is a story that puts Tim against a Russian billionaire in a weird VR plot. There’s a lot of setup for the future. And it’s good. It’s a decent bit of storytelling for who Tim will be in the near future. A rising CEO handling the street level assassins. Tim is going to be the grittier side of storytelling Nightwing used to.
And Flashpoint started to loom.
It’s never a secret in comic offices what’s coming. The last issues of this book are a scramble. We get several crossovers. We get desperate tying up of loose ends. There is a hard slam on several plots. The last issue is the Captain Boomerang confrontation the book built to and it is super abrupt. This book didn’t stick the landing. It collapsed disastrously and that’s not Nicieza’s fault. He had the end come with very little warning.
The result is a book I can recommend but with an asterisk. Read the first twelve issues. Read the Bruce Wayne: The Road Home issue. Read The Hit List arc. But don’t force yourself to experience the end. This is a damned good book that deserves much better.
And that’s how I feel about Tim’s story as a whole. Tim is a great character. He had an amazing beginning. He had a great story as a side character. His solo book has moments. He built to an interesting, unique hero. And he was ultimately cut short by bad editorial moves. I strongly hope that with the status quo somewhat shifting back he will get his due. Tim Drake isn’t the abrasive Damian. He’s not the broken Jason. He’s not the heir to Batman that is Dick. He’s the resilient fighter who can’t give up.