By the last two chapters of Robin: Violent Tendencies, legendary Robin writer Chuch Dixon has righted a major wrong and likely saved DC Comics some face in the process; the conclusion, while not terribly surprising, is wholely satisfying. Unfortunately, perhaps through editorial fiat, Dixon must take four other chapters to get to that point, which ultimately don't feel like much more than filler.
It was great to hear that Chuck Dixon was taking the reigns of Robin again, as Dixon previously wrote nearly 100 issues of the series plus a couple mini-series; Robin, like Nightwing, has had highs and lows under various writers, but no writer quite seemed to "get" the series like Dixon. As hoped, Dixon brings with him a couple former stalwarts of the series, namely Robin Tim Drake's good friend Ives, and Robin's Redbird car. And while the story may have had one-too-many narration boxes at times for my tastes, Dixon certainly still has a flare for Tim's voice; when he talks in the bowling alley about how female villains are his weak spot, this was clearly classic Dixon/Robin.
But unfortunately what Violent Tendencies offers in terms of nostalgia value doesn't quite pad out what it misses in terms of story. The crux of Violent Tendencies is that Robin goes in the trail of a violet-hued thief named, ironically enough, Violet, who puts him in mind of his former love Spoiler, believed dead; it's coincidence then that someone dressed like Spoiler follows not too far behind. Violet is for the most part just as one-dimensional as the name/clothing match suggests, and Robin trails her for a good majority of the book. What follows are some fairly engaging action sequences and lots of Robin's internal dialogue, but nothing earth-shattering until the end of the book. Dixon leaves Robin after this collection (and apparently, DC Comics) and as such I have no expectation of ever seeing Violet again; it makes much of the beginning of this story feel flat.
The important thing here, of course, is that Spoiler is now no longer dead. At a time when DC Comics was likely bumping off one too many female heroes at once, Spoiler's death is one that shouldn't have happened and has now been rectified (though no one could argue that the death wasn't intended to be permanent until fan outcry came along). I also appreciated that Dixon handled Spoiler's resurrection in a fairly logical manner, as opposed to the take-it-and-move-on rebirth of Jason Todd.
However, the difficulty that remains, in my opinion, is the same one that caused DC to want to bump off Spoiler in the first place. Chuck Dixon did such a good job the first time around of making Spoiler Stephanie Brown the perfect girlfriend for Tim Drake that no one else could measure up, and that makes for boring, boring storytelling if you're a writer wanting to inject some romantic tension into a Robin story. The concept that the protagonist can never, ever date anyone else than the character they're dating right now is something writers have a hard enough time with in Superman, let alone the teen drama Robin. My guess is that even though Spoiler's back, it won't be long before DC
There's a lot, I'd say, that my own comics reading, as well as Birds of Prey, Nightwing, and Robin owe Chuck Dixon. I had some sharp words on the situation when Dixon left DC, but as I finish this Robin trade with appearances by Ives, Spoiler, and the Redbird, I did want to acknowledge Dixon's contributions. Maybe he'll find his way back to DC, one day. Robin: Violent Tendencies isn't perfect, but it does what it's supposed to, and I don't imagine most Robin fans will miss it.
[Contains full covers]
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