Robin: Violent Tendencies

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The cover of this trade gives away a pretty big (please forgive me) spoiler regarding the main storyline here. Obviously, Spoiler (or someone donning her costume, as Stephanie Brown is supposed to be dead) reappears in Gotham, throwing Tim Drake for a whirl as he angrily tries to hunt down this imposter.

The comic doesn’t open with this, of course. It’s a much slower build than that. Instead, we watch as Tim tries to juggle his vigilante work with his “day job” of going to school and being a normal teenager. He argues with his current girlfriend, who’s feeling neglected, and daydreams a lot about Stephanie, his lost love. He even believes he’s seeing her around school, convinced his mind is playing tricks on him.

In his cowled nightlife, Robin confronts a new vigilante in town who has been robbing thieves and criminals in order to earn a profit.  Early descriptions of the unknown woman sound a lot like Spoiler, but when Robin goes to investigate he finds that it’s someone else entirely.

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This new player on the scene, Violet, largely remains a mystery at this point.  Yes, she steals, but she only steals from criminals, and some of the money she takes winds up being put to charitable means. She’s clearly got her own moral code to follow, and given how much she and Robin didn’t hit it off in this story, I’m guessing they will be butting heads in future storylines.

The story is amped up when Robin finally comes face to face with the actual Spoiler.  Not surprisingly, he is incredibly upset to see someone donning Stephanie’s uniform.

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Tim lets his anger run wild, yet can’t help but notice that this imposter calls him by his real name; whoever she is, clearly she knows a lot more than he would have guessed.  Determined to set her straight, Robin joins up with Batman and the pair track down this girl to tell her to stop parading around in that uniform.  Robin is taken by surprise though when she pulls off her mask and reveals her true identity: none other than Stephanie Brown.

Robin’s reaction feels believable, not to mention too cute for words.

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But wait a minute, I know what you’re thinking (or at least what I was thinking): Didn’t Stephanie die at the end of War Crimes?  Wasn’t there that whole major storyline where Leslie Thompkins let her die, leading to her fleeing to Africa and Batman telling her never to return??

Well, yes. But as it turns out, they’ve decided to adjust that just a bit.

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Batman says he always “suspected” this may have been the case. Of course he did. He’s Batman.

All I can say is HALLELUJAH.  I hated the way War Crimes ended, both in Stephanie’s death and in a complete change in character for Leslie Thompkins.  This may be my favorite retcon so far, and one that I think was desperately needed.  I don’t know who at DC thought the events in War Crimes were a good idea, but I’m so glad they finally came to their senses and adjusted this story accordingly.  With Stephanie back in town, perhaps she and Tim can pick up where they left off (it’s always so much more fun reading about superhero couples, rather than one superhero who has to keep his identity a secret from a civilian).  The story doesn’t give too much detail about what’s going to happen now, other than confirming that Batman will allow Stephanie to continue in her role as Spoiler (it’s so cute that he thinks he has a say).  There’s a brief Robin/Spoiler team-up issue at the end, but it still shows the duo on slightly shaky ground. They’re still trying to readjust to everything that’s happened, but I’m hoping they become more in tune with one another as the story progresses.

To sum up: Stephanie’s alive, yay! Leslie Thompkins isn’t a bad guy, yay! Batman kinda suspected this the whole time but said nothing, grrrr!! Oh well, that’s comics for you 🙂

-Jess

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Robin: Wanted

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Well this is a pretty momentous occasion.  No, I don’t mean the events in the Robin: Wanted trade (though we’ll get to that in a minute).  I’m talking about the trade itself.  This is the 250th trade I’ve read (and written about) for Holy Comics, Batman!  I’m completing this post just a few days shy of the one year anniversary mark of this site (September 1st), although it will be posting after that date, due to my extreme overachiever personality which results in my having posts written weeks before they’ll actually be posted (I’m weird, have I mentioned?)

So yes. 250 trades.  I’ve read over 100 of those in the past 4 months alone.  Am I burned out? No, but I can’t deny that I’m staring at the end of “the shelf” as though it’s a finish line in a marathon.  I’m loving the journey, but I’ll also be sort of happy when I can stop pushing myself so much and perhaps only write a few posts a week, rather than the one-a-day I’ve been maintaining for months now.

Again, these are all self-imposed goals. Like I said, I’m weird.

Anyway, on to the trade at hand.  I’ve already read a bit about post-Infinite Crisis Robin in the last Batman trade, so I had some idea of what I was getting into. Or at least, I thought I did.  It turns out there’s a lot that happens in this book, so let’s dive right in, shall we?

Robin begins with our favorite sidekick fighting for his life. Blinded by a floodlight, he has no idea who his attacker is. When he finally regains his vision, he sees Batgirl lying dead at his feet.  Of course, it isn’t really Batgirl, but the cops show up, think Robin’s a murderer, and all hell breaks loose. Robin spends the better part of the comic trying to prove his innocence.

I love a good “wrongfully accused” storyline, and this was no exception. Especially enjoyable though, was the sleuthing Robin did in his quest to find the real killer.

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Too often the comics focus on the fighting, leaving the detective work to fall to the wayside. It’s always there, in the background, but I like when a story brings it into focus, helping us realize just how much time and effort these heroes put into performing these fantastic feats.  This one in particular, employing geometry to map out the perfect path to deflect yard after yard of lasers, was quite intriguing, and showed how seriously Robin took his mission.

Once we reach the climax of the story, all hell breaks loose. Robin learns that none other than Batgirl herself, Cassandra Cain, is behind a slew of deaths, and framed Robin for Batgirl’s murder.

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She’s gone off the deep end, and now believes she and Robin can be partners, if he’ll only kill her father and join her in ruling the League of Assassins.

Obviously Robin refuses, and the two engage in a pretty epic fight. Both Cassandra and Cain escape, so it’s unlikely their story is over.  Still, Robin’s name is cleared and he’s able to regain some sense of normalcy.

The remainder of the trade sees Robin pairing up with an unlikely partner: Captain Boomerang, the son of the now-deceased original (who incidentally, was also the man who killed Robin’s father).  For obvious reasons, Robin distrusts Boomerang, even though he’s been working with the Outsiders and seems to be on the straight and narrow.

The pair are hunting down a nuclear bomb, a leftover from one of Joker’s hideouts, and battle their way throughout the city to find it.  The inventive traps they have to overcome were highly entertaining, but even more enjoyable was the banter between the two.  Boomerang constantly refers to Robin as “kid”,  a term he doesn’t take kindly to:

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The exchanges between Robin and Boomerang feel almost brotherly, and while Robin is certainly not willing to befriend his would-be foe just yet, it seems clear that they’re at least heading in the right direction.

A lot happens in this trade, but it’s handled pretty well. It’s clear that Robin is adjusting to a lot of changes in his life, with the implication of a new romantic interest, his adoption by Bruce, and his chance to take on a case solo.  He may still be young, but Robin is proving that he’s got a lot of potential, and I can’t wait to see where it all takes him.

-Jess

Robin: Unmasked

Is Tim Drake officially finished as Robin??

That’s the question I’m left with after reading this trade.  Of course, that needs a little explanation, so let’s back up a bit…

Robin is out patrolling on his own when he faces off against a thug named Johnny Warren.  Johnny bests him in battle, but not before blowing off his own hand due to one of Robin’s devices and shooting a woman he was holding hostage.  Johnny escapes as Robin tends to the victim.

We later learn that an artifact Johnny had stolen has taken possession of his body, jamming itself through his chest and conversing with him (yes, it’s as weird as it sounds).  When Robin and Johnny face off once more, Johnny almost wins, beating up Spoiler and planning on killing her.

Robin, of course, won’t have that.

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Johnny is dead, with Robin presumably responsible for the death. Nothing can be confirmed, however, because Johnny’s body disappears from the morgue before an autopsy can be performed.

Tim brands himself a murderer though, leading Batman to seriously question whether he can continue being Robin.  He mopes around for months, feeling guilty and unsure of himself.  It takes a swift kick in the pants from his girlfriend/ally Stephanie Brown (Spoiler) to set him on the right track.

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**Side note: how much did I love Stephanie in this trade? She’s spunky and funny and has absolutely no problem speaking her mind.  I’ve read very little about her up to this point, but I already like her. End girl-crush mini rant.**

Tim feels renewed, knowing that Robin is who he’s meant to be.  Unfortunately, all of that comes crashing down when, through a coincidental series of events, Tim’s father learns of his secret identity and is none too thrilled at the thought of his son fighting crime on a nightly basis.

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He points a gun at Bruce and threatens to reveal his secret to the world.  Mercifully, Tim is able to talk his father down, albeit slightly.  He convinces his father to keep their secret, but unfortunately it comes at a price.

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And just like that, Tim Drake is no longer Robin.

I wasn’t expecting this sort of ending, and yet the entire comic seems to be leading up to this moment. Tim is so unsure of his future, and just when he’s figured it all out, a monkey wrench gets thrown into his plans, tossing his world upside down.  I know enough about Batman lore to know that Tim won’t be gone from the comics for good, but if this is truly his Robin swan song, I’m certainly sad to see him go. He was always such a dedicated Robin, eager to please Batman and bring a little justice into the world.  It’s disheartening to think that he’s sacrificing his role just because his father disapproves, and yet it feels all-too realistic.  Especially given that Tim’s mother died a violent death, it makes sense that his father would be extra protective of him.

Overall I enjoyed this comic. It was a brief storyline, but it left an impression.  in an abstract, way Robin’s insecurities and introspective thoughts are all too reflective of what many of us go through as teenagers.  True, we may not be superheroes, but surely most of us questioned who we were or what we wanted to do with our lives at this point.  Bill Willingham created a story that felt true-to-form for many teens, crafting a relatable story (no small feat when super villains and high-tech gadgetry are involved).  I’m sure we’ll be getting a new Robin soon, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m sad to see this one go.

On a side note, I’d like to point out a glaring error I noticed in the character bios on the opening page of the trade, simply because I can’t let it slide.

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“…after Thomas and Mary were killed by a gunman.”

Mary.

MARY.

Doesn’t DC have an editing staff??  I know it’s just a little note in a character bio that may not even be read by many people, but still. This is not a name to get wrong.

Okay, rant over, I just had to point that out.

-Jess