The Revolution will openly admit that we have been highly skeptical about DC’s new direction for the Batman family. I found Battle for the Cowl to be terribly generic and predictable. Even though DC has “teased” the reader with the identity of Red Robin, everyone knows that it is Tim. I have to admit that I am entering this title with a strong bias. I much prefer Tim as Robin. And I much prefer Tim as a lighter and more positive character. Still, I will keep an open mind as I read Red Robin #1. Let’s do this review.
Writer: Chris Yost
Artist: Ramon Bachs
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Tim narrating how the daughter of some outspoken Spanish politician was kidnapped. The kidnappers asked for a ransom. The father paid the ransom. Unfortunately, the kidnappers pulled a fast switch and the police trying to capture the kidnappers lost both the kidnappers and the money. Tim had arrived in Madrid just a few hours earlier and had heard the news of the kidnapping since it was all over the television.
We cut to where the kidnappers are hiding with the girl. There is a knock on the door. They kidnappers open it and it is one of the kidnappers with all the ransom money is standing there. The kidnapper with the money then falls to the floor unconscious. Red Robin then busts into the room and kicks ass on the kidnappers.
Tim narrates how during the fight he felt himself crossing the line. That Tim is now breaking bones and no longer caring about the pain he inflicts. Tim wonders if there is really any line left to cross. Tim says that it no longer matters. Tim thinks “Batman is dead, right? And I’m sure as hell not Robin.”
One of the kidnappers is a metahuman. The metahuman turns his fists into flames. The thug goes to punch Red Robin. Red Robin catches the flaming punch with his hand and then head buts the thug. We cut to outside the apartment and see a blast of fire explode through the windows. We see Red Robin jumping out of the window with the kidnapped girl in his arms. Tim thinks that this is not why he came to Madrid.
We cut to Tim at his hotel room tending to the burns on his hand where he caught the fiery metahuman’s fist. Tim thinks how that was a dumb move. Tim stares at the mirror in the bathroom and asks “Who the hell are you?” Tim thinks how “Tim Drake” would have known better.
Tim slumps to the floor and thinks that he is Tim Wayne. Tim then thinks “Oh god. What happened to my life? What am I doing here?”
We shift to Tim arriving in Toledo, Spain. This is Tim’s fourth city in seven days. Tim thinks that he knows everyone thinks he is crazy. But, Tim knows that he is right. Tim thinks over and over “I know I’m right.”
We flashback to Tim and Dick at the Batcave. Tim yells that his entire life has burnt down. Again. Dick says that Damien is supposed to be Dick’s protégé. Dick says that Tim is an equal. Dick says that Tim is his greatest ally. Dick says that Tim will be okay.
Dick says that Damien cannot be left to himself. That Damien might kill again. Tim yells that he does not understand. Tim says that this is all that he has.
Damien enters the scene and says that he is surprised that Tim Drake is still in the Batcave. Damien is wearing the Robin outfit. Tim asks Dick how Dick could possibly let Damien be Robin. Tim asks Dick how he could pick Damien over him. Damien calls Tim “Drake” and comments that they might still have a costume left over for him. Damien states that the Batgirl costume is available.
Tim yells “My name is Tim Wayne!” Tim punches Damien. Damien smirks that he let Tim have that punch because Tim doesn’t have anything else to feel good about. Dick restrains Tim. Tim pushes Dick away from him.
Dick says that Tim has to accept that Bruce is gone. Dick says things change, but that he still needs Tim. Tim says nothing and storms out of the Batcave.
We see Tim in Wayne Manor destroying some furniture and yelling “This is not HAPPENING!” Tim slumps to the floor and says “This is not happening.” We cut to the present with Red Robin saying “This isn’t happening.”
We slide over to Prague, Czechoslovakia. Tim narrates about how a Czech businessman blackmailed the wrong people. And that those people hired a professional hitman to kill the businessman. We see the businessman’s limo blow up. We see the hitman watching from across the street.
Suddenly, a shadowy figure enters the room and kills the hitman and throws the hitman out of the window. We see the killer’s eyes beaming from the shadows. There are four eyes like an insect. And the killer says “…Chrchrchrchr…” Tim ends the scene by narrating “Of course, I didn’t know any of this at the time.”
We cut to Paris where Red Robin is racing through the streets on his motorcycle. There was an armed robbery a block away from Tim’s hotel. Tim is now chasing the robbers.
Tim does a cool acrobatic flip off his bike and lands on the robbers’ car. Tim uses a sharp knife on one end of his staff to puncture the hood and engine of the car. The car flips through the air and Red Robin dives for safety. Red Robin thinks how everywhere he goes there is garbage like these robbers.
Tim stands up in the middle of the street and the robbers’ car blows up behind him. (Ha! That is like how the Power Rangers will pose while the bad guy blows up behind them.) Tim says that these distractions are keeping him from what is important. That they are keeping him from his search.
We flashback to Tim sitting on the floor in Wayne Manor where he destroyed some furniture and vases. Tim sits their silently. Tim finally says “He’s alive. Bruce is alive.”
We cut back to the present with Tim standing on a rooftop looking over Paris. Tim thinks how Bruce is out there somewhere. That Bruce is alive. Tim thinks “They think I’m grieving. That I’m in denial. That I’ve lost it. But he’s all I have and he has to be alive.”
We shift to Tim at his hotel room studying a map of the world. Tim thinks that he has to stay focused and keep looking. Tim thinks Bruce “wouldn’t give up on me.” Tim thinks how he won’t let Bruce down. That he won’t let Bruce fade away. Tim thinks “Please God, don’t let me be crazy.” Tim reminds himself to stay focused.
We see that three hitmen are watching Tim from a nearby rooftop. One of the hitmen radios their boss and says “My lord…we’ve got him.” We shift to a room full of monitor screens with footage of Red Robin on his search. Ra’s al Ghul is sitting in the room. Ra’s answers “Indeed we do.” End of issue.
The Good: Despite my serious reservations about Red Robin #1, I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised with this issue. Red Robin #1 was much better than I was expecting. And despite that I gave this title a 6 out of 10, I believe that this title has tons of potential and can evolve into quite an exciting read. There was certainly much to like about Red Robin #1.
Yost did an excellent job with Tim’s dialogue and narration. Yost displayed an impressive feel for Tim’s character. I am not saying that Yost gave us a version of Tim completely consistent with what we have gotten in the past. Because he did not. What I am saying is that based on the events stemming from Batman’s death and Battle for the Cowl that Yost did a good job with how Tim would react to the loss in his life.
Tim’s character is nicely developed and Tim’s narration easily pulls the reader into the story. Yost is able to make the reader quite sympathetic toward Tim in short order. Yost does a good job with Tim’s internal struggle dealing with Bruce’s “death.” Tim’s internal debate over what he should do with himself in the wake of Bruce’s “death” was well crafted and made for compelling reading. And Yost does it in a powerful and succinct manner.
I loved how Yost had Tim angrily remind Damien that Tim’s last name is Wayne and not Drake. This helps to hammer home the point that Tim does view Bruce as his father. I also liked how Yost had Tim refuse to give up on Bruce because he knew that Bruce would never give up on him. With just one issue, Yost does a superior job of showing how Bruce’s “death” impacted Tim than what we got in three issues of Battle for the Cowl. This only serves to make me view Battle for the Cowl as even more useless than I did prior to reading Red Robin #1.
I will admit that I am not terribly thrilled with getting “emo” Tim. I do prefer Tim as a more positive and lighter character. However, Yost succeeds in selling me on this direction with Tim’s character. Tim has lost his biological father already. And now Tim has lost his adopted father. And on top of that, Tim has been cast aside by his adoptive brother, Dick. That is a lot for a teenage male to take. Teenage males are normally volatile creatures even in the best of circumstances. So, it makes sense to me that Tim would react in the manner that Yost has him react in Red Robin #1.
And while I prefer Tim as Robin, his assuming the mantle of Red Robin worked for me. Tim is facing the reality that there is no Batman. Bruce is gone. And now Tim is no longer Robin as Bruce’s natural son has usurped that mantle. In typical teenage fashion, Tim seeks to establish his own independent identity. And what better identity to use than that of Red Robin which has a history of being a bit of a lone wolf that goes against the grain.
After all, Tim believes that his brothers have cast him out of the family. And everyone views Tim as crazy for thinking that Bruce is still alive. So, now more than ever, Tim must undertake this quest on his own with no support from the Bat family. And Yost succeeds in making Tim’s desire to set upon this lone quest to find Bruce to be very genuine and earnest. Yost also manages to get the reader to wonder if Tim is simply sick and blinded by grief with his belief that Bruce is alive without ever making Tim look utterly insane.
Red Robin #1 was a well constructed and framed issue. Red Robin #1 is also a wonderfully paced issue as Yost never allows the story to drag or wander. Yost begins the issue with a great action scene. Yost then slows down the story in order to fill in a bit of back-story as what Tim has been done in between Battle for the Cowl and Red Robin #1. This issue had a pleasant flow to it as Yost nicely balances the dialogue heavy dramatic scenes with the high impact action scenes. And, yes, the action scenes kick ass. Yost knows how to deliver a pretty bad-assed Red Robin.
Red Robin #1 was nicely plotted as Yost has quickly establishes the main plotline in Tim’s quest for Bruce Wayne. Along the way, Yost creates a minor plotline involving the mysterious insect-like killer who took out the hitman. And Yost mixes in a third plotline involving Ra’s al Ghul. Yost was smart to immediately try and get several plotlines installed in the first issue.
And the hook ending with Ra’s al Ghul was a fine way to end this issue. It is hard to go wrong with a classic Batman villain like Ra’s. I am interested to find out what Yost has planned for Ra’s in this story.
The Bad: Red Robin #1 had some flaws. Yost failed to convince me why Tim would think that Bruce is still alive. I am not saying that Tim has to have some vision from beyond, but at least give Tim a few clues that might spark this hope that Bruce is alive. Just Tim’s desire to believe that Bruce is still alive was not enough for me.
Yost also spends too much time with Tim dealing with random crimes in this issue rather than actually engaging in his search for Bruce. This issue seemed more like Tim just travelling Europe and accidently stumbling across crime wherever he goes. These scenes involving Tim stopping random crimes feel like filler. The reader gets the impression that Yost was just trying to fluff up the issue with these page wasting scenes. It also gave Red Robin #1 a bit of an unfocused feel.
I would have preferred if Yost simply got right to the point and actually had Tim search for Bruce in some substantial and logical manner rather than have Tim randomly bumble around Europe with the vague hope of finding Bruce alive somewhere. Yost fails to inform the reader not only why Tim thinks Bruce is still alive, but also Tim’s plan for finding Bruce.
How exactly is Tim going to track down Bruce? What methods is he going to use? What clues are out there? Hopefully, Yost will flesh this out more with the upcoming issues. Because right now, Tim’s quest feels more like a random wild goose chase than an actual detective mystery that Tim has to solve.
I don’t mind Tim’s obsessive belief that Bruce is alive. And I don’t mind Tim’s incredibly driven desire to find Bruce in the face of everyone thinking that he is crazy. And I don’t mind Tim’s anger and feelings of abandonment over losing Bruce and then being cast aside by Dick. But the “crossing the line” aspect that Yost brings to Tim’s character does not work with me. The “crossing the line” aspect of Red Robin is a much better fit for Jason Todd’s character than for Tim’s character.
And making Tim dark and violent also does not work with me. I do not believe that Tim being dark and violent necessarily goes hand-in-hand with Tim feeling abandoned and grieving over Bruce’s death. I believe that Tim can be upset over being alone and take up his quest for Bruce without having to have his character made that much darker and more violent. That part of Tim’s character that Yost adds to the story reminds me more of Jason Todd than Tim Wayne.
And that leads me to my next point. I remain resolutely convinced that Jason Todd would have made a vastly superior selection for the role of Red Robin. If any character is going to battle violent tendencies and dangers with crossing the line, it would be Jason Todd. Not Tim Wayne. DC dropped the ball by not having Todd reprise his Red Robin role from Countdown.
By having Todd as Red Robin, we could see how Todd is dedicated to fighting crime but in a dramatically different style compared to Batman and Robin. This would have helped to have given Todd an identity outside of the roles of Batman and Robin. Todd as Red Robin would have allowed Todd to remain a lone wolf, but still have that connection to the Bat family.
This way Todd could serve as the legitimate black sheep of the Bat family. This would work better than having to artificially force Tim into the role of the black sheep of the Bat family. And that role simply does not fit Tim’s character. Nor is the role of black sheep consistent with Tim’s past history as Robin. I also think that Todd would have been the logical choice to search the Multiverse for Bruce since Jason toured through the Multiverse during Countdown.
Ramon Bachs did a serviceable enough job with the artwork in Red Robin #1. The biggest problem with the artwork is the lack of consistency. The scenes with Red Robin in action look great. But, the scenes with Tim out of costume look average at best. Bachs struggles with drawing faces. And the one scene with the hitman getting killed by the mysterious person was awkwardly laid out.
Overall: Red Robin #1 was a better than average read that showed plenty of potential to blossom into a quality title. Yost has the basic ingredients for what could be an incredibly entertaining story. Setting aside my issues with how DC has handled both Jason Todd and Tim Wayne, I have to say that Red Robin #1 was a solid debut issue that delivers a dependable action adventure story. Red Robin #1 is new reader friendly. It is not necessary for the reader to have read either Robin or Battle for the Cowl in order to enjoy Red Robin #1.
I would recommend Red Robin #1 to readers who like straight forward action adventure stories. On the other hand, readers who loved Tim as Robin may simply not be able to enjoy this new direction DC is taking with Tim’s character in Red Robin.