“Tim Drake: Robin” – Part Eight
Writer: Meghan Fitzmartin
Artist: Nikola Čižmešija
Color Artist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Review by Steven Lee Sharpe
Tim Drake: Robin #8 feels like a ratcheting up of drama, teasing a return to past storylines and featuring a genuinely tense cliffhanger. It also benefits from some of the best art in the series so far.
The first story arc in the series appropriately focused on Tim Drake establishing himself in a new stage of his life. Moving to Gotham Harbour from under the proverbial wing of Bruce Wayne, living on his own, and dealing with insecurities about a new relationship, particularly his first with a boyfriend. All this while being tested by a new villain called Moriarty.
The previous issue turned the spotlight on Tim’s partner, Bernard Dowd. Although the story focused on his troubled relationship with his parents, it was an appropriate reminder of Bernard’s history, particularly when considering what unfolds in this issue.
The story starts off with Tim on his boat tending to the outboard motor with Bernard and Darcy Thomas, who’s been aiding Tim as Sparrow when he’s Robin. Then Batwoman arrives in spectacular fashion by literally dropping out of the sky and landing on the deck unconscious. As Bernard’s currently unaware of his boyfriend’s secret life as a superhero, Darcy hustles him away. Once Kate Kane recovers consciousness and expresses that she has no memory of how she got there or why there’s blood on her gloves, so begins an intriguing new mystery for Tim to unravel.
The plot thickens when Robin, Sparrow, and Batwoman set out to find Tim’s contact at the Gotham City Police Department and they find Detective Williams under siege from Chaos Monsters. For anyone unfamiliar with Tim’s adventures prior to this series, these creatures are relatively new villains, created for an earlier Robin story, and they feature significantly in his history with Bernard.
Beginning in Batman: Urban Legends #4, the story, entitled “The Sum of Our Parts”, saw Tim on the hunt for a Chaos Monster when he met with Bernard again, a long-time friend. Their meeting was broken up by the Chaos Monster kidnapping Bernard. When Robin rescued him, he realized that he had deeper feelings for his friend than he’d previously acknowledged, which led to the confession of the heart that brought us into this series.
Bernard’s previous imprisonment was mentioned again in Tim Drake: Robin #3, hinting that his time with the Chaos Monster may have left a lasting impression.
The Chaos Monsters offered something different. Another way out. Why shouldn’t I take it?
But it’s over? You’re okay now?”
Now we have Kate Kane complaining of memory loss and covered in blood and the Chaos Monsters making another return. Is there some greater scheme at play here?
It’s always great when threads of old stories get teased out, and the tone of this issue certainly feels like a rise in intensity. It’s aided by some great art by Sword of Azrael artist Nikola Čižmešija. The opening page evocatively captures the harbour setting and nicely compliments Tim’s inner monologue about focusing on practical problems to distract himself from life’s bigger issues by showing images in big, simple puzzle pieces.
The layouts are great – Tim looks charismatic in his Robin gear, and there are nice character moments too, such as the look of panic between Tim and Darcy when they realize that they need to get Bernard off the boat. Plus, the action sequences really zing with movement and energy.
Compared with previous artists on the series, the intensity and versatility that Čižmešija brings with his art better counterbalances writer Meghan Fitzmartin’s interpretation of Tim Drake being an uncertain overthinker. This approach to the character has varied in effectiveness for me over the series but in this issue there are barely any signs of it aside from the opening pages.
What has bothered me are little unconvincing choices in the writing. When Darcy leads a shocked Bernard away from the boat after Batwoman landed so dramatically, all Tim can offer is “It’ll be okay Bernard. Nothing to worry about”, which feels patronizingly dismissive.
In another example, while Robin, Sparrow, and Batwoman chat inside the boat, Tim analyses the blood on Batwoman’s gloves and determines that it’s not hers. He says that he thought this would be the case because there was so much blood that she wouldn’t be conscious if it was hers. Maybe he’s being flippant, but it makes it sound like they didn’t check Kate for any injuries.
These are minor quibbles about an overall solid and dramatic issue – probably my favorite of the series so far.
Fitzmartin’s been writing Tim Drake’s journey since Batman: Urban Legends and in Tim Drake: Robin #8 it’s great to see her ideas developing their potential. With exciting artwork and plotting, this issue has action and a genuinely intriguing mystery which is deepened by the cliffhanger ending, one that also manages to heighten the stakes. Phew.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment