Tim Drake. Red Robin. The third Robin. For many, Tim is one of the most well regarded and relatable sidekicks to come out of Batman’s teachings. He’s also a character that some would consider underappreciated in today’s current comic climate. The introduction of Damian, whether you love or hate him, may not have helped as focus at times does go to the fifth Robin. Not to mention Tim has not been utilized on his own much since today’s discussion, Red Robin.
While I certainly enjoy the character development that Jason and Tim had grown in the New 52, I cannot say that the New 52 entirely did Tim justice in Teen Titans. He had some good moments and his and Jason’s relationship was one I wholeheartedly enjoyed. It was probably one of my favorite relationships alongside Jason and Roy’s friendship and the weird, but endearing set up of Killer Croc and Roy’s mentorship/friendship. I certainly feel that the New 52 did him better than Rebirth did (though I wouldn’t say it was a complete dud).
With that in mind, I would like to take the time to discuss why I think Red Robin (the series) was a great solo venture for Tim Drake and why I consider it one of the best Tim Drake stories out there.
Red Robin had two main writers during its run: Chris Yost and Fabian Nicieza. Both had a hand throughout the series and Fabian Nicieza makes his Tim Drake return here after doing a few issues of the Robin solo run. While some arcs were better than others (more on that later), both writers worked well with the character and the stories told throughout its twenty-six issue run.
This series had two artists. The first few issues were penciled by Ramon Bachs and was later taken over by Markus To. While art may be subjective and a favorite artist varying from person to person, I would argue that Markus To is a very good artist for the series. It was very fluid and the colors fit perfectly. Every character looked and felt like they were supposed to and the art was very smooth.
True to Character and Then Some
One thing I think this series did well was how well it kept true to the character. It wasn’t afraid to show Tim being determined with proving Bruce was alive or how he viewed what he had to do with Ra’s al Ghul. He had a strategy for key points of the story and was willing to see them through. And while at times it may have seemed unfair, like Tim having a contingency plan for Damian, it wasn’t without reason. Though it did lead to a conflict between the two beforehand.
Tim was never overly cocky in Red Robin. He knows what he can and can’t do. Like when he fought Ra’s. He knew he wasn’t going to win in a (physical) fight with the centuries old assassin, he just needed to stall him long enough. Or like when he and Cass teams up later on in the series. He and Cass (then Black Bat) have a few cases together, one of which he commends Cass for her journey. And when she pretends to stab him, he was friendly with her, even joking how Batman never taught her about certain traps that were set of after faking out the door that’d only open when Tim’s blood was spilt (he’s death).
It also showed how he could be restrained with his emotions and desire for vengeance. This shown more when he is face to face with Captain Boomerang, the man who killed his father, Jack Drake. During a case towards the end of the series, Tim does not take the opportunity to take him out. And though lectured about how he might not have then by Bruce, Tim does say that he has a way he will run his routine and that he (Bruce) should be proud that he didn’t.
At the same time, it wasn’t afraid to give Tim Drake more emotional/sentimental moments. For example, when Tim and Conner meet up before the final showdown with Ra’s. Tim finally really processes Conner’s revival (having meet him previously in Paris in the Superboy mini series). He’s happy that he’s alive, even if they had seen each other before this. Another example is when Tim and Bruce are reunited and they
It Shows Off His Talent
Tim’s known as the more tactical/strategic Robin. He’s not as strong as Jason or as nimble as Dick. Nor does he have Damian’s killer instinct or uncertain potential. Rather, he is known for his intellect. This is also the kid who figured out who Batman and Robin were before hitting double digits. Not to mention Bruce has praised Tim’s intellect and detective skills. As such, Red Robin used Tim’s strategic insight and intellect to get through what the series threw at him.
Characterization was pretty solid. Everyone for the most part felt in character. No character felt out of place and how they interacted with each other felt natural. No one felt too perfect, to dumb, or too wooden.
The only complaint I can think of is how Dick approached the whole “Bruce is alive” assertion. While we would later find out that he was alive, just trapped in time, one could argue that how Dick approached it was mixed. On the one hand, you can’t blame him for thinking that Tim may have been in denial, but on the other how he approached it may not have been the best.
The Ra’s al Ghul arc
This is considered the best arc in the series. How it was constructed and executed was perfect for both characters. We get to see Ra’s deciding to destroy everything Bruce cares about and Tim trying to stop him. The strategy and communication that went into this are was great and these two being at odds with each other felt natural.
Neither one takes the other lightly either. Tim knows how formidable Ra’s is. As one of Batman’s more elusive and challenging rogues, he knows that he is not to be taken lightly in a battle of wits or fists. While Ra’s sees how different he is to the other Robins. He notes how Tim’s whole strategy is unlike Bruce, Dick or Damian’s, noting how Tim knew how to win the match he was in. And again when they were fighting, Ra’s bitterly praises Tim for how he was able to take Ra’s’ scheme down, all the while stalling in a fight Tim knew he had no chance of winning. Ra’s even refers to him as Detective, an honorary title that he’s only given to Bruce. So the two have a respectful and cautious rivalry that we don’t get to see much of.
I’d argue that Tim and Ra’s al Ghul’s rivalry is one of the best out there and certainly the perfect rivalry for Tim to have. Bruce has Joker. Dick has Blockbuster or Deathstroke (whichever you feel is the proper rivalry). And Jason has Black Mask in several storylines. If there was one thing that I wished continued after Red Robin it’s that. Sure, Damian is Ra’s’ grandson, but
All and all, I believe that Red Robin is an amazing Tim Drake run. The characters were great. The art fluid. And the stories interesting. It’s a shame we haven’t gotten a solo series for Tim sense. Or even a series that lets him shine. If you haven’t read Red Robin, I would highly recommend it.