I remember not too long ago when Fabien Nicieza wrote the final Robin solo issue, which as a title lasted far longer than 26 issues. It was around Batman R.I.P. when Tim acquitted himself fairly well, but also didn't have a huge role to play in the end. He dealt with Batman going crazy then disappearing then apparently dying, the return to the land of the living by Stephanie Brown and the discovery of her deceit, and the extent of his personal ambitions and tactical ruthlessness when it came to fighting crime.
Thus they set-up a brilliant new series that focused on Tim finding a similar yet new identity to inhabit, one in which he would have the freedom and independence he required to accomplish his goals. Starting out with a clear purpose, Red Robin may have lost it's way a bit, but it never forgot what it wanted to do: show Tim Drake all grown up, the character that resulted from the combination of his loving, tragically killed parents, his adopted father and mentor Bruce Wayne, his big brother and best friend Dick Grayson, and a young life filled with years of hardship, joy, and superheroics.
Hit the jump for a review of the final issue in this underrated series.
At the start of Red Robin, written at first by Chris Yost, Tim had a very specific mission. He was the only one who believed Bruce to be alive, and whether he was being supremely logical or childishly hopeful, he was determined to find proof. He interacted with his old friends and family and promptly parted ways, beginning a global adventure of detection, planning, combat and risk. In the end, he was (glory!) proven right, and returned to Gotham in order to set up his new life.
Having grown comfortable in the identity of Red Robin (a bit more threatening and severe) Tim began to set up a new base and set elaborate plans into motion. As a series of adventures go, these were all stellar and true to Tim's character and maturation, yet they were less fantastic than the first few arcs. Still, you just know Nicieza could have gone for years with this incarnation, had they not informed him of the impending relaunch, and subsequent cancellation, a few months ago.
However, he closed it out admirably. The final issue deals primarily with Tim facing Captain Boomerang, the recently resurrected (via Brightest Day) murderer of his father, Jack Drake. In classic Tim-fashion, he designs a complicated plan, one in which Boomerang has multiple opportunities to make the "right", that is non-villainous, choice and thus save himself. Naturally, he follows the fake trail to stolen power where he ends up at the mercy of Mr. Freeze, who Tim knows would kill him.
Testing himself as much, if not more, than Captain Boomerang, Tim saves him and realizes if his father's murderer is going to die, he's going to have to kill him himself. He pontificates, wrestles with morality, reflects, beats him up a bit, and when he gets his chance, he doesn't do it.
Dick Grayson's Batman, having witnessed it, applauds him for his strength in resisting the temptation. Bruce Wayne's Batman, also a silent witness in the shadows, does not. The only one superior to Tim at detection, he knows what Tim orchestrated, the potential disasters, and Tim's certainty that Boomerang would make all the wrong choices.
Nicieza doesn't wrap up this period of Tim's life, which honestly could be everything we've ever known about Tim's life not knowing what the relaunch will change, with a neat little bow, presenting conclusions about Tim's path and exactly what he's capable of now. Instead, the last line is question: "So many choices...but what will be my decision?" Like the end of Batgirl there is a sense that there adventures yet to occur, decisions yet to be made, characters they've yet to become, and even though we won't get to see them it doesn't mean they don't happen. It's actually rather sad, and he doesn't shy away from Tim's weaknesses and faults, his not-perfect relationships with his loved ones, and his lack of certainty when it comes to all of life's constant choices.
After all his resistance to the legacy, Tim Drake is the one who has ended up the most like Batman. He has a darkness and an obsession where once it was only compassion and excitement that motivated him. He has a faith in his own powers where once he was the consummate sidekick, always aware of his considerable limits. And he has the individual, unique set of skills and principles that give him hope, confidence, ambition and a staggering amount of potential.
"It's my city now if I want it to be. Not Dick's. Not Bruce's. Mine."
Cheers on a great couple years Red Robin, and thanks for doing my favorite superhero justice. Here's hoping the Relaunch's Teen Titans isn't as bad as its covers look.