Certain team books have a problem when it comes to having a Zero issue, especially when issue #1 dealt with the team getting together. So “Red Hood and the Outlaws” and “Teen Titans” have changed gears and instead focused on telling the origin story for the character who brought the team together. In Red Hood we get the origin of Jason Todd, and in Teen Titans we get the origin of Tim Drake.
So obviously there are going to be some changes and departures in this book, and you can spot the first one in the credits themselves. The cover says the book is drawn by Brett Booth, series regular, but the inside credits list the artist as Tyler Kirkham. Considering the fact that there were several changes to the final cover art for some of these books, I wonder why the credits weren’t changed as well.
The story inside is narrated by Batman as he tells the journey of Tim into the superhero world. Notice that it is just Tim, not Tim Drake. Tim is at a gymnastics competition or show, and his parents are right there cheering him on. It is said that Tim is being head hunted by some Olympic scouts making his face somewhat recognizable. It is important to remember this.
Tim does have a weekend project, finding out the identity of Batman. Similar to how the pre-52 version of Tim worked, he deduced that something happened to Robin and that caused Batman to not be himself. He recognizes that Batman needs Robin and thus offers his services. Batman denies him that and tells him to go be with his family. Tim doesn’t know Batman’s real identity, which was a striking difference from the pre-52 version. This is kinda funny to me, because Nightwing was able to deduce that Bruce was Batman in “Nightwing #0” and Tim appears to be much, much smarter.
Tim continues on his desire to help Batman and is stopped by Batman along the way. Then Tim does a Robin Hood and steals from Penguin and gives all his fortune to the poor via computer hackery. Penguin doesn’t like this and sends some people over to Tim’s house to fill it with a bunch of bullet-sized holes. Batman intervenes and takes care of the gunmen, while Tim and his family survive.
Then the twist of the issue comes. Somehow, this is the moment that Batman says he can take Tim into his care, because Tim’s parents are going into the Witness Protection Program since Penguin would continue to go after his parents if Penguin knew they were alive. Tim’s parents leave Tim in the care of Batman. That was the turn where the book lost me.
I know comics tend to be based in fantasy land, but even in fantasy land you have to have some sense of law and reason. For example, how is this pulled off in a legal sense? I imagine that Tim isn’t quite 18, so he has to be adopted by Batman. But how does that work out in a legal sense? All while leaving Bruce Wayne out of it? Or even if he is in it, how do people not think that Bruce=Batman?
There is a line in the book where Tim says, “It just…the narrative got away from me.” Somehow I think that is true for the writer in this case, trying to come up with a way for Tim to have his cake and eat it too. And it shows, when we have what is supposed to be a very somber moment between Tim and his parents leaving, and then the next page he is in the Batcave and smiling away.
And then the final page reveals that his name is now Tim Drake, and that he is Red Robin. Well, if he is Tim Drake now, who was he before? That seems like a rather odd twist to throw in there. The Red Robin thing I can sorta go with. The reasoning behind it is there and told by Tim, but how does he go about explaining that to every villain who calls him Robin? It’s not Robin, it’s Red Robin? Wouldn’t they laugh? Hey, that is something that Robin is supposed to do with villains anyway, so why not go with it.
Kirkham’s art is pretty good here. Just by flipping through the book can give you a sense of story, which is always the sign of a good artist. My big thing about any artist on a book called Teen Titans is that the characters in the book look like they could have the physique of a teenager, and Kirkham nails that here. There is a definitive size difference between Tim and Batman that works, especially in that last panel. My one complaint is that Tim’s dad’s moustache sorta has a come and go appearance. I like to think that maybe he has thin hair, and it gives the moustache a sometimes-there-sometimes-not appearance.
This book makes Tim feel kinda smug to me. I almost think that he knew everything that was going to happen and knew his parents would need to be out of the picture and set it up like that. So that makes him a little selfish, too. And the moment when it really could have swayed my opinion differently came from the words he last used with his parents. Saying that he will spend the rest of his life proving that this sacrifice was worth it just didn’t feel to me like he really meant it. They felt like rehearsed words.
Is this book worth the price of admission? I think so. The art is pretty good, and I can see a new reader maybe connecting differently with Tim and going with the story. That is what makes it a good Zero issue, because it serves as a good introduction to the character of Tim and whether you would stand behind him or not. Stacked up against other Zero issues, this one isn’t too bad.
Or, maybe the idea of re-telling two Robin’s origins in the New 52 was something more than Lobdell could handle. The right idea was there, but the narrative got away.