Red Robin #1Red Robin #1
Writer: Christopher Yost
Penciller: Ramon Bachs
Colorist: Guy Major
Publisher: DC Comics
Continuity sense -- tingling!
As I wrote above with my review for Batman #687 (coming up shortly), this new status quo for the Batbooks has largely ignored much of the journey taken by Battle for the Cowl, content to start their engines on a brand new playing field. Perhaps most emblematic of that approach is Christopher Yost and Ramon Bach's Red Robin #1. It's a title with which I don't always agree with direction taken, but there are enough elements in play that I feel any number of good stories could be told down the line.
The thing that kind of surprised me for this book was the fact that the solicits had made the identity of Red Robin seem like a big mystery -- but we pretty much know exactly who's behind the cowl within eight pages (and for those of you who guessed Tim Drake, well, who else could it have been?). But I think that was a smart play on Yost's part, because with a brand new identity, we need to be behind Tim Drake 110 percent if we're going to accept this venture.
Wait, did I say Tim Drake? I meant Tim Wayne. Or did I?
This is really the root of what sent my continuity sense a-buzzing -- in this sense, Tim's reaction to Bruce's disappearance. Yost has made an interesting choice by making Tim a hardened man in the fact of this new loss, but the thing that always defined Tim Drake for me is that he already had a father. He never wanted to become Batman, because he saw how fundamentally messed up Bruce really is -- so the idea of Tim proudly wearing the Wayne name kind of surprised me. But the idea of Tim searching for Bruce when everyone else has written him off is, to me, perfectly and 100 percent in character -- remember, this is the guy who nearly sided with Ra's Al Ghul to bring his parents back from the dead, and tried creating a cloning facility to return Kon-El from the dead.
Whew. Where was I? The story. Yost has done Tim a great service by making him a globetrotting detective, as he has tons of venues to strut his stuff. In essence, this could be a really good travel comic, something that as far as I can remember DC hasn't touched (outside of Vertigo books like DMZ or Y: The Last Man): "My fourth city in seven days," Tim says to himself. "But I know I'm right. Until I think too hard about it. Then I know I'm crazy. I know I'm right." Of course, conveniently timed robberies take place, whether he's in Spain or France, but that's okay -- in a lot of ways, Tim is becoming Bruce's spiritual successor, and if that's acknowledged, along with the Drake versus Wayne name debate, it could be a really cool idea to wrestle with. Really, the greatest strength of this book is the fact that Tim is so cerebral that an internal monologue not only feels natural, but feels like the only way you can tell a decent Red Robin story.
There are really only two parts of this comic that I didn't grab me. The first is Tim's departure from the nuclear Bat-family -- while it acknowledges how Damian got to become the new Robin, I really can't see Dick Grayson telling Tim he can't take his old costume back. (Although Damian has a funny line: "Sorry Drake. You're still part of the team -- maybe the Batgirl costume is available!") To be honest, I'm surprised the argument wasn't the other way around, with Tim telling Dick this is a journey he has to take, rather than being pushed into it by circumstance.
But the real problematic part of this book is Ramon Bachs. His artwork, at least to me, comes off as fairly flat and unengaging, with not enough shadows for depth or emotion, but just enough to come off as completely annoying. His look at Tim, sinking to the bathroom floor in depression, is really nice, but I think, at the very least, this guy needs an inker. My other problem, which he shares with Benes in Batman, is composition -- a lot of the fight choreography just comes off as bland, which unfortunatley does not fly for a fight-heavy comic. Colorist Guy Major, on the other hand, does heroic work in making the art look the best it can, making Red Robin really pop off the page, especially in a sequence dealing with a human flamethrower.
Despite its warts, Red Robin does have one thing going for it: Christopher Yost gives himself a lot of interesting paths to choose from. Between the globetrotting, and the wrestling with doubt, to what I hope will be him reconciling his past as both a Drake and a Wayne, to the reveal of a seminal Bat-villain with whom he shares a recent past, I will say that Red Robin has a lot of potential to be some spectacular storytelling. Hopefully, his artistic collaborators will bring up their game a bit to match, because if so, Red Robin could very well use its international intrigue and father-son dynamics to become the new sleeper hit of the Batman franchise.