Review: Red Robin: Collision trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Elsewhere in the Bat-universe, Bryan Q. Miller chronicles the adventures of the new Batgirl in Batgirl Rising -- the word "rising" indicating the newest rebirth of the character. Red Robin: Collision goes about it a bit more subtly, but indeed by the end of the book this is essentially "Tim Drake: Rebirth." Chris Yost's second Red Robin volume is even stronger than the first, and it's been a long time since the Tim Drake was this compelling.

[Contains spoilers]

By the end of Collision, Red Robin has saved the life of almost every single member of the Bat-family, and also held his own in hand-to-hand combat with Ra's al Ghul. Maybe a tad far-fetched for Batman purists, but Yost's point comes through -- Tim Drake has arrived. There is an especially effective final sequence in which Tim reveals his understanding of Ra's master plan and also how Tim has been combatting that plan almost from Red Robin's first issue; Yost rightly remembers that Tim's greatest strength has always been as a sleuth, and Ra's naming Tim "Detective" -- formerly Ra's name for Batman -- is one of the best endorsements Tim could get.

Ra's subsequently kicks Tim through a skyscraper window, and Tim is rescued by Batman Dick Grayson, lest any of us forget the pecking order. But the story's second biggest "arrival" moment is a rooftop meeting between Dick and Tim where Tim acknowledges Dick as Batman, and Dick -- rather than demanding that Tim explain his scheme against Ra's -- trusts Red Robin's orders on faith. Dick's progression to the Batman role was natural, but Tim has had to essentially promote himself, and Dick's deference in essence makes that promotion official.

Another character getting her due comeuppance in this book is the aforementioned Batgirl. In a crossover penned mostly by Yost with an issue by Miller, Tim encounters new-Batgirl Stephanie Brown after the umpteenth time he's told her to quite the superhero game -- and finds himself impressed. In a great melainge of teen superhero tropes, Tim and Stephanie fight, team-up, and then have to attend a formal party together undercover. Anyone who smacked their forehead the last three times Tim self-righteously lectured Stephanie will enjoy the moments she renders Tim speechless with her upgraded martial arts prowess; hopefully the fact that both Dick and Tim now accept Stephanie will be enough for Bruce Wayne to do the same when he returns.

Yost leaves the relationship between Batgirl and Red Robin romantic but unresolved, which is about where this should be -- similar, in essence, to that between Batman Bruce Wayne and Catwoman. Trying to continue a relationship between two characters in separate titles would only end in disaster (this means you, Green Arrow and Black Canary), but similarly a platonic relationship between the former Robin and Spoiler would be a great disappointment to long-time fans. Yost puts his encyclopedic knowledge of Tim Drake to good use here, especially, as he references the first time Tim and Stephanie met and she hit him with a brick (and also in shout-outs to the first Robin miniseries and other bits of trivia).

Tim gets a slightly modified Red Robin costume at the end of the book, and it's the culmination of a gradual shift by artist Marcus To toward youthening Tim's look over the course of the book. Ramon Bachs did a nice job in Red Robin: The Grail, but his Red Robin was rather boxy and angular; To softens the lines especially around Red Robin's head to make the hero look thinner and younger. It's a look that's exponentially better, far more the kind of costume that would look right amidst the Teen Titans as well as the Bat-family. Writer Chris Yost leaves after this volume, but I'm glad to see Marcus To sticking around for a while.

[Contains full covers, printed on glossy paper]

The world hardly needs another Bat-book, but there's nothing better than a book that thrives on the vitality of its own specific character, rather than trudging along on the fumes of a legacy name. "Red Robin" is in my opinion a rather silly name for a character (see Twitter search for "Red Robin" to find more restaurant than superhero mentions), but if any DC character deserves to be headlining his own series -- whatever the title -- Tim Drake is it. Red Robin: Collision is one of those great second volumes of a new series that surpasses even the premiere; I have high hopes that writer Fabian Nicieza can keep it going such that we enjoy Tim Drake's adventures for a while to come.
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6 comments:

  1. I love Collision, and now I love Chris Yost. Its because of this Red Robin run that I even bothered reading Xmen: Second Coming(written by Yost and Craig Kyle) and that was great. If Yost plans on returning to DC comics ever again, it should be nothing short of JLA. I think Collision shows he's just that good.

    Excellent review, by the way. Unlike you though, I was really dreading Fabian's takeover of the book.

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  2. Another fine write-up, but for financial reasons I won't be picking this up just yet. As a Bat-fan, it's great to see that the "Batman Reborn" storyline is working fairly well, but I can't help but wonder where all these characters are going after Bruce Wayne returns. It seems like "Batman, Inc." sending Bruce on a globe-trotting quest is a way to keep the "Reborn" status quo for a while longer, but it seems like the Bat-family has made such forward progress that I wonder whether we'll look back on this time as the start of something new or just a bump in the road.

    That said, I wish I had more money so that I could be reading Red Robin. Though I've never been an enormous fan of Tim Drake enough to follow him in a series independent of Batman, I like how the creative team seems to have made him stand on his own. Just not a big fan of the black hood.

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  3. I did have some second thoughts about Nicieza taking over Red Robin. Many of the difficulties with Nicieza's Robin: Search for a Hero were editorially mandated, I think, but from the preview solicitations it does seem like Nicieza's going back to that old ground -- Scarab, Anarky, etc. Search for a Hero was OK Robin, but I wouldn't call it fresh by any means. I can just hope some of the groovy Red Robin vibe that Yost began will rub off on Nicieza's story; that Marcus To is staying and there's continuity on the art, at least, will help some, I think.

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  4. Nicieza's run so far has been an excellent successor to Yost's stellar first year. The tone remains the same throughout--it isn't jarring, the way it frequently is when writers change. And he may be going back to some of the old characters he wrote in his first Robin arc, but he manages to make it work in the context of what Yost has established, while still moving Tim Drake forward. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

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  5. Hadn't Ra's bestowed the title Detective to Dick previously? It far better suits Tim, but I remember in Nightwing: The Great Leap Ra's calls Dick detective as an acknowledgement of the pupil taking the teacher's role.

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  6. Granted it's kind of an easy "you have arrived" plot point, but agreed that it suits Tim better than Dick. I rather liked during Joe Kelly's Superman run when he had Ra's (or maybe Talia) call Superman "Icon." That seemed to fit.

    Maybe Ra's could call Dick "Acrobat." Or something ...

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