By Jarrod Jones. Soon after DC Comics kicked off its highly successful Rebirth initiative came a daunting question for Bat-fans: What will be the final fate of Tim Drake?
This week brought us Detective Comics #965, the first chapter of what should be another stirring Bat-family saga from James Tyinion IV, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, and Adriano Lucas. Cheekily titled “A Lonely Place of Living, Part One”, issue #965 focuses on the ultimate destiny of Tim Drake, which has been left up in the air ever since he was snatched out of reality by the villainous Mr. Oz back in Detective #940 over one year ago. For people who have followed the exploits of the third Robin ever since Damian Wayne entered the fray, Drake’s nebulous place in the DCU has been nothing new.
Things appear to be changing on that front. Tim Drake has always been a vital character to the Bat-mythos, but now, thanks to the intrigue surrounding DC’s upcoming Rebirth event Doomsday Clock, he’s become a vital component to the overall mechanism of the DCU. And as Doomsday Clock continues to tick towards midnight (by which, of course, I mean November 22), we step cautiously towards “A Lonely Place of Living”, a story that not only sets out to increase anticipation for DC’s next event, it re-establishes Tim Drake as a bonafide Robin in the post-Flashpoint DCU. No easy feat.
Let’s dive headlong into Detective Comics #965. Spoilers ahead.
Written by James Tynion IV.
Art by Eddy Barrows.
Inks by Eber Ferreira.
Colors by Adriano Lucas.
Letters by Sal Cipriano.
Pérez, redux. Eddy Barrows’ homage to George Pérez’s iconic cover to Batman #441 is enough to send chills through any ardent Batman fan. The cover represents legacy and its function in Rebirth in a bold and reverential way. It also represents a sense of closure.
It features Tim Drake contemplating his role as Robin just as Dick Grayson once did all those years ago. With this symmetry comes the possibility that Tim Drake’s life as a sidekick has come full circle. That, as a character, Tim is about to undergo yet another metamorphosis, one that is fueled by his history both before and after Flashpoint. James Tynion, Eddy Barrows, and the rest of the creative team in this issue craft a synthesis of the two in expert fashion. We’ll examine this more in a bit.
What’s fascinating about the first part of “A Lonely Place of Living” isn’t just the heartfelt echo to DC’s Post-Crisis days, it’s that it represents how much has changed within the Batman line of comics over the past twenty-eight years. Let’s consider the content in both this week’s issue of Detective and that 1989 issue of Batman.
Then, and now. Batman #441 was the third part to “A Lonely Place of Dying”, a series that featured a Batman in crisis. Jason Todd’s death affected him in a profoundly negative way, and Alfred Pennyworth and Dick Grayson could only watch as he descended further into a violent spiral of despair. With Two-Face on a vengeful crime spree Batman’s future — as a hero, and as a father — hung in the balance. However, through the intervention of young Tim Drake, who insisted that Batman must always have a Robin, the Bat-family was given a chance — not only to persevere, but to finally find some closure to one of their greatest tragedies as well.
This week’s issue of Detective is an issue-long origin story, a retelling of Tim Drake’s first Robin adventure as originally told by Marv Wolfman, Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo, Adrienne Roy, and John Costanza. It re-frames the narrative of “A Lonely Place of Dying” to fit within the parameters set forth by Rebirth, which has worked overtime to streamline the bumps provided by The New 52 — an initiative that mostly hamstrung the Batman mythos by condensing over seventy years’ worth of lore into five. (It also seems to zip up “Dying” with Batman #457, the first appearance of Tim’s iconic 90s outfit.) Within those five years Dick Grayson had been Robin, and so had Jason Todd. Jason Todd still died at the hands of the Joker, which still precipitated the ascension of Tim Drake as the Boy Wonder. That would have fit well enough, were it not for Damian Wayne.
By the end of 2011, Damian Wayne had been firmly established as DC’s newest Robin, which meant that — within the course of five years — Batman had burned through three Robins before his biological son took on the role. That not only added serious speedbumps to the Bat-family’s origins, it diminished Tim Drake’s role as Robin. (What about Stephanie Brown? some of you may be asking. I know, I know.) In the course of one issue — not an event, not an arc, but a single issue — Detective Comics #965 righted a wrong.
Strong teams, on and off the page. Detective Comics has been a Bat-family title since the advent of Rebirth, and as such it’s worked beautifully. That’s due to the creative team at the helm. Detective is such an exciting title because the people making it are clearly excited about what they’re doing. It’s infectious.
James Tynion IV is a writer first and a fan second, though it’s plain to see the affection he has for DC’s heroes. He understands the importance of character and its place within a broadening epic. Read through his wildly ambitious run on Detective so far for all the evidence you need; characters like Cassandra Cain, Tim Drake, Kate Kane — and yes, thankfully, Stephanie Brown — have all enjoyed a second life in the hands of Tynion’s Detective run.
But what’s so impressive about all this — aside from bringing classic fan favorites back into the DC fold — is that his stories never feel tacked-on or superfluous to his overall conceits. In fact, Tynion sets up entire arcs that directly affect individual characters in Detective‘s belfry and are designed to deliberately contribute the central narrative thrust. One primary example is “The Rise of the Batmen”, which established not only Kate Kane’s role in the the DCU, but her inter-personal relationships to the Bat-family as well — a crucial part of this ongoing saga.
Intermittently throughout the run, Tynion has worked alongside Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, and Adriano Lucas. Together they launched Detective last year (with letterer Marilyn Patrizio; Sal Cipriano handles lettering duties here), setting out to put a stamp on DC’s namesake. It’s a wonder of a team; collectively they give Detective a distinctive flavor that sets it apart from the rest of the Batman line. It’s a team book, which gives often marginalized characters an opportunity to shine beyond the shadow of their grim leader. In Detective, everyone matters, and it’s a better book for it.
Tim Drake, Robin. Perhaps the most important aspect to Detective Comics #965 — beyond its Doomsday Clock obligations, that is — is that it re-establishes Tim Drake as the third Robin. And it does as such with a heartening sense of reverence.
In ‘Tec #965, Mr. Oz shows Tim images of a fatigued Bruce Wayne, who is consumed by the knowledge that Tim is actually alive (revealed in issue #962) and uses every spare moment to actively search for him. This directly mirrors Batman’s similarly dauntless approach to crime-fighting in the weeks following the death of Jason Todd in “A Lonely Place of Dying”, where the Dark Knight is also depicted as emotionally exhausted. Tynion sets up the dramatics, but it’s the art team that moves in for the kill: the expressions given to Tim in this moment — rendered by Barrows and underscored by Ferreira — reveal that, while Tim may be a prisoner facing what could be his death, his heart aches only for his mentor. It pains Tim to see Batman in such anguish. After all, that pain is what spurred him to become Robin in the first place. It’s an incredible moment.
Every page inside this issue is set in Mr. Oz’s lair, which isolates us from the rest of the DCU and provides a laser-focus on a character who has sat on the sidelines for far too long. We spend the entire issue with Tim, understanding his motivations and his fears, and reacquaint ourselves with his almost metahuman knack for multitasking and utterly disrupting nefarious deeds. For a character that served as one of DC’s icons for nearly three decades, Tim Drake is finally getting his due.
9 out of 10