That being said, however, aspects of writer Christopher Yost and artist Ramon Bachs first outing on this new title, Red Robin: The Grail, hearken wonderfully back to the early days of the last Robin series. It'll take a lot to get me to accept an older, lone Red Robin out on his own when his friends on the Teen Titans remain younger and together, but Red Robin is a good substitute for a genuine Robin fix.
I'll note to start off that Red Robin isn't perfect. Despite the premise of the book is that Tim is now the loose cannon of the Bat-family, working "over the line" (as the narrative continually reminds us) in his search for Bruce Wayne, Tim never comes off as that extreme aside from a well-advised team-up with villain Ra's al Ghul. The few times he breaks a bad guy's bones aren't anything you wouldn't put past the Dark Knight himself; Yost more tells than shows us that Tim's gone rogue.
And whereas Yost creates some interesting characters in Ra's al Ghul's team of assassins, I couldn't care much for Tim's supposed love interest of the book, Wayne Enterprises' Lucius Fox's daughter Tam. Yost means to demonstrate how out of her element she is, kidnapped by Ra's, through all the "ums" peppered in her speech, but it only makes her seem a vapid damsel in distress, not someone we root for Tim to love. (Letting alone the gratuitous scene where Tim [accidentally] kicks former girlfriend Spoiler in the face, the kind of violence between couples we're meant to wave away in comic books but that would be "not all right" in the real world.)
But given those quibbles, overall Yost delivers a book much in line with Robin stories past. I absolutely love that Tim's mission takes him all over the globe, much like the first Robin miniseries found Tim in Paris rather than Gotham. Yost has obviously done his homework, including shout outs to moments both as early as that first Robin miniseries to as late as the end of the regular series (and a nod to Tim's long-time pseudonym, Alvin Draper). Tim's entire quest is predicated on his skills as a detective, true to the beginnings of the character; and Tim's penchant for working with villains and obsessing about the wisdom of it also, as I noted, has precedent.
I also appreciated that Yost very quickly established that the main character's name is Tim Drake, not Tim Wayne. I liked that Bruce Wayne adopted Tim, creating a real father-son dynamic between the Dynamic Duo that hadn't been explored before, but one could argue to also lessened Tim as a character. Another interesting dynamic was that Tim became Robin while his father still lived, causing Tim both outward obstacles and inner conflict; returning Tim to Drake (a perfectly fearsome-sounding Bat-character last name) not only returns the character's independence, but some of the punch that perhaps the character has lost over the years.
In short, Yost's book feels like Robin, even if it isn't. Some time after Chuck Dixon originally left the Robin title, Adam Beechen delivered a handful of stories that felt like the old days, but in total the book never had its original aesthetic. Red Robin returns that through tone, plot, and locale, even through artist Ramon Bachs channeling early Robin artist Tom Grummett on at least two occasions (Damian Wayne in the Batcave in the beginning, and Tim as he talks to Wonder Girl toward the end) -- all of it ought evoke considerable nostalgia for long-time Robin fans.
[Contains "What came before" page, full and variant covers]
DC Comics seems to me now a little stuck -- Damian Wayne isn't the Robin that DC can put on lunchboxes, so I expect Tim to one day retake the mantle; but having been Red Robin, returning to regular Robin would seem for Tim Drake something of a devolution. How that'll play out, I'm not sure -- I do applaud DC for taking chances, and I'm curious to see where all of this will go.
What's that green glow on the horizon? Be here next time to find out!