“Tim Drake: Robin” – Part Seven
Writer: Meghan Fitzmartin
Artist: Serg Acuna
Color Artist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Review by Steven Lee Sharpe
Tim Drake: Robin #7 marks the start of a new story arc, along with a change in artist. It also shows us a protagonist who continues to feel more assured and at ease with his role. Unfortunately, it’s still a series peppered with problems.
In my reviews of the previous chapters in this series I’ve bemoaned the uncertainty Tim constantly struggled with as he dealt with his new home and life in Gotham Marina, away from Batman.
It’s natural that he would feel a degree of anxiety of course, particularly as he was dealing with acknowledging his sexual identity and the insecurity that can come with the early stages of a new relationship. However, I felt that this was often overplayed and got in the way of his role as a charismatic protagonist and sometimes left me forgetting that he’s been around for over thirty years-worth of adventures!
So, it was great to see in the previous issue, Tim finally taking down the antagonist Moriarty and end the chapter with a more resolute and assertive mindset about his role as a superhero and his relationship with Bernard Dowd.
In this chapter, I’m happy to report that we have more of the quick-thinking, action-focused version of Robin we know and love. The counterbalance to that is that the issue focuses on Bernard who, it turns out, is now the one with the emotional problems.
The story revolves around their date night. They have a table booked at a posh restaurant which is hard to get into, but Tim was able to use his connection to Bruce Wayne. The reason for this reveal is that it neatly leads into information about Bernard, who says that he could’ve asked his wealthy parents but they’re not approving of… well anything to do with him it seems. This is important because moments after they arrive at the restaurant, Bernard’s parents coincidentally arrive too.
After a greeting that very quickly turns from frosty to heated, the temperature really rises when Firefly arrives to wreak havoc and essentially set fire to everything. Hero and villain duly do battle throughout the issue, but it’s as a backdrop to Bernard and his family issues.
How you feel about that may shape your opinion of the issue. Although our Boy Wonder is ever-present in the story, Bernard’s thoughts fill the description boxes, making him act as the narrator, and the focus of the panels rarely wanders too far from him. It’s interesting because I felt that he was being presented in a suspicious light toward the end of the previous arc.
I wasn’t sure if this was due to a past storyline when he was kidnapped by a cult, or because there was a mystery to the identity of the central villain, so it’s good to put him under the spotlight. However, while Bernard certainly needs fleshing out as a character, taking the narrative away from the protagonist is brave because ultimately, we’ve all turned up to see Robin.
In fact, writer Meghan Fitzpatrick presents an issue that feels like a bit of a gear change for the series. The charming marina setting doesn’t feature, nor does Tim’s boat, and none of the previously seen supporting characters make an appearance, including Stephanie Brown, who’s been set up to feel almost like Robin’s sidekick.
What is familiar are the instances of narrative untidiness which has plagued the series. Twice Tim literally runs off leaving Bernard in his hour of need. The first time we’re simply told that he needs to use the bathroom, so his hot-footed dash seems like an extreme reaction.
If you study the panel where Bernard is shocked to see his parents, Tim seems to be reacting to something off-panel, and the next time we see him is fighting Firefly, so I’m guessing he saw something suspicious and decided to investigate. It all feels a bit clumsy. As he runs off, Bernard calls out to Tim that he hopes he has a successful bathroom visit – I shudder to think what an unsuccessful one would look like.
The second time Tim runs off is to return to the burning restaurant. For some reason, Firefly and his accomplice are still there, though I’m not sure why. Neither am I entirely clear why Firefly attacked the restaurant in the first place? There were also moments where the dialogue didn’t quite flow, almost as if there had been a communication breakdown between the writer and artist. It’s a shame because the device of dividing the story into sections of a meal (for example, entrée and plat principal) and then drawing a parallel to what’s going on is clever and cute.
As for the art, Serg Acuna gives a more traditional interpretation of Robin compared to previous artist Riley Rossmo’s more cartoony expressionism. Tim looks dramatic, intense, and sexy in action. The story opens with a panel of him taking off his Robin shirt which is then followed on the next page with him looking cool in a suit.
There’s a Manga feel to Acuna’s characters and all the floppy hair exaggerated expressions may feel familiar to Yaoi readers. The swirls of fire in the action sequences are especially effective. The coloring’s great too, as Lee Loughridge uses nice effects for the background to the romantic moments, such as making the lights in the restaurant look like a magical sunset.
Tim Drake: Robin #7 deals with the astute recognition that, as someone who is important to Robin’s storyline Bernard Dowd needs fleshing out. Thankfully Tim is still coming across as assertive and capable. However, while this series has personality, it’s yet to find its groove and suffers from some questionable moments in storytelling.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment