Review: Robin: The Big Leagues trade paperback

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Reading Robin: The Big Leagues, I had an undeniable sense of the Tim Drake Robin character finally coming in to his own. The Big Leagues isn't perfect -- in fact, Robin: Teenage Wasteland is by far the more superior collection of Adam Beechen's Robin run -- but what Beechen establishes here in terms of both Tim's youth and his maturity, as well as his new post-Infinite Crisis relationship with Batman, is remarkably interesting and inspiring.

Adam Beechen's exploration of Batman and Robin's new father-and-son status breathes new life into their partnership. The Big Leagues collects five issues; the middle three pit Robin against a team of vengeful super-villains, while the first and last focus on Tim's two fathers -- Bruce Wayne and the late Jack Drake -- and taken together, these are deeply emotional stories. In the first, Tim tries almost desperately to make a good impression on what is essentially Bruce Wayne's first-ever Father's Day; in the last, Tim re-establishes his commitment to do Jack Drake proud. Beechen demonstrates here a masterful understanding of the forces moving Tim Drake at this time -- what he's lost, what he's gained, and how all of that motivates him sometimes even at cross purposes.

Given that we're used to Robin living under the same roof as Batman, as Dick Grayson and Jason Todd did, it's sometimes easy to overlook the magnitude of the idea that Tim Drake is now Bruce Wayne's son, even if adopted. This is something no Robin (Nightwing aside) could ever say: Robin is now Batman's son. Beechen, I think, gets this -- though Bruce's concern for Tim in this trade may come off a little overdone, the point is to demonstrate how Bruce has become really, truly paternal. In the final scene, Batman makes his own commitment to Jack Drake to take care of Tim, and it's a gigantically powerful moment.

The mid-section of this trade has Robin fighting a bunch of bad guys brought together by Dodge, Tim Drake's spurned protege. I give Beechen points here once again for demonstrating the "new" Robin that functions with full faith from Batman and Commissioner Gordon, and also for bringing back some of the anonymous villains from the end of Bill Willingham's Robin stories. Unfortunately the story's not terribly meaningful short of Robin's interactions with Dodge, and even there it seems like Beechen writes Dodge out mainly because of the end of Beechen's Robin run. The surprise Teen Titan cameos here also would have been more effective were they not telegraphed in the initial trade paperback artwork.

Mostly because of Batgirl issues, Adam Beechen's work on Robin has been controversal and often decried; personally, I think it was fantastic, my favorite since Chuck Dixon (and I couldn't be happier that Beechen is soon to be writing Batgirl herself). I look forward to reading his work on Teen Titans, given how much I enjoyed him here.

[Contains cover thumbnails.]

On now to Shadowpact. Thanks for reading!
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2 comments:

  1. "Mostly because of Batgirl issues, Adam Beechen's work on Robin has been controversal and often decried; personally, I think it was fantastic"

    Well put sir, well put.

    I loved Beechen's Robin. During that run Robin seemed to be more of a dark knight, or dark detective, than Batman.
    I think Beechen really got Tim Drake as a character not just as a Robin.

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  2. Absolutely. Did Beechen ever end up writing Teen Titans? He did such a great job on Robin, I'm interestd to see him take on the whole team.

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