Tag Archives: Red Robin costume

A Detective Comics #939 Review – Tim Drake’s Return to Glory

Detective Comics #939, cover, Eddy BarrowsTITLE: Detective Comics #939
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
PENCILLER: Eddy Barrows
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: August 24, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Did any character get a more of a raw deal in the New 52 than Tim Drake? Not only was he put in a horrendous new costume, but his 20-year history was compressed and retconned to the point that we were essentially dealing with a new character. Almost four years later, and things aren’t much better for him.

That being said, Tim Drake fans should send James Tynion IV a thank you note. Detective Comics #939 is the best Tim Drake story I’ve read in years. New 52 Red Robin may finally become more than a shell of his pre-reboot self, and really set himself apart from his “brothers” in Batman’s surrogate family. Though in a way it’s a shame, as it’s looking like he’ll soon be either retired or dead…

The quaint team of heroes assembled by Batman and Batwoman have begun to mount a comeback against the military force Jacob Kane has dedicated to eliminating caped heroes in Gotham. But as drones prepare to swarm the city, Kate Kane suspects Batman knows more than he’s letting on about her father’s efforts. Meanwhile, Tim Drake ponders a future without superheroics. But he may not live to see such a future, after he makes a drastic choice that terrifies his teammates.

Detective Comics #939, Tim and Steph, Eddy BarrowsSince Tynion came aboard Detective Comics, Tim has been debating whether to leave Gotham to attend Ivy University full time. This is consistent with the Tim Drake we often saw in the late ’90s and early ’00s. At that point, Tim was unsure of his future as a superhero, often insecure when comparing himself to Dick Grayson and the like. This college storyline seems to play off that idea. As much of a Tim Drake fan as I am, seeing him walk away might not be the worst thing at this point. Batman has a lot of legacy characters that tend to simply drift in the status quo, serving no real purpose. Letting Tim hang up his cape might freshen up his character, and his relationships with the active heroes. And as a bonus, things would be a little less crowded in Gotham.

But of course, Detective Comics is really about Batwoman these days, giving her the spotlight she deserves. What stands out prominently about Tynion’s take on her is the relationship she has with Batman. They’ve been established as cousins, and early in the issue we see a young Kate try to comfort Bruce Wayne at his parents’ funeral. Because they have that deep-rooted connection, she’s able to talk to him in a way few people can. Her words have weight with him, as illustrated when she calls him out for keeping something from her, and he’s forced to admit fault. How often does that happen to Batman? She may be his cousin, but Kate often acts like his big sister.

I’ve been mostly pleased with Eddy Barrows’ work on this series thus far. In recent issues he and the other artists have emphasized certain panels, usually those that transition to another scene, by adjusting to a more painterly style. The above image of Stephanie is an example. Often it will occur when something dramatic or important is said. Other times it just enhances a nice character shot. It takes some getting used to. But it’s a fun way to liven up dialogue scenes, and can leave lasting impressions.

Clayface, Detective Comics #939, 2016Barrows is also very good at showing us the dichotomy of Basil Karlo, a.k.a. Clayface. Case in point, the page at right. On one hand, we’ve got a great shot of this bulky, gooey monster. But in the next panel, that same monster almost looks like a sad puppy. Here’s hoping this book devotes some more time to Basil in the near future. We could potentially see some really good stuff here.

Barrows does love that legs spread and knees bent pose, doesn’t he? We saw Batman in this pose in issue #934, and now Tim. On the cover, no less. I opted for the Rafael Albuquerque variant.

Like Tim Drake, Detective Comics is better than it’s been in quite some time. In terms of consistency, we’re talking pre-New 52. This book isn’t simply housing for Batman’s legacy characters. It’s in contention for the best Bat-book on the stands. My only question now is whether it’ll be down a Robin going forward…

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A Detective Comics #934 Review – Rebirth and Redemption

Detective Comics #934, 2016, Eddy BarrowsTITLE: Detective Comics #934
AUTHOR: James Tynion IV
PENCILLER: Eddy Barrows
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: June 8, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I dig this issue for no other reason than it rights a wrong that’s been present since 2011. It fixes the Red Robin costume. That thing had been far too ugly for far too long. It was a damn embarassment.

But there’s plenty more to like here. A mysterious force is targeting Gotham’s heroes, some of whom are not prepared for this new threat. Batman comes to Kate Kane, a.k.a. Batwoman, to help train the next generation of heroes. Red Robin, The Spoiler, Orphan, and (of all people) Clayface are chosen to train under The Dark Knight and his new partner. A partner who knows more about Batman than he suspected, and is hungry for more knowledge. Such as what Batman isn’t saying about this new threat to costumed heroes.

This “reborn” Detective Comics has a feel-good vibe to it by virtue of its cast, which consists largely of characters who were screwed over creatively during the New 52. Tim Drake lost so much of his depth and backstory in the reboot, and given that silly costume. I’ve got high hopes that James Tynion IV, an accomplished Batman writer himself, can do some justice for him. And of course, Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain were wiped from continuity and didn’t return until later. With their respective backstories altered, of course. Fans may remember the shakeup in 2013 over DC not allowing Kate Kane to marry. The road to this title has been frustrating. But there’s a nice opportunity for redemption here.

Detective Comics #934, Eddy Barrows, ClayfaceOn the subject of redemption, the addition of Clayface to this team is surprising. He obviously doesn’t qualify as a costumed hero. But it plays to the idea that on some level, Batman really is trying to rehabilitate the villains he fights. The smart bet is this goes bad at some point. But in the meantime, the dynamic Basil Karlo will have with his more virtuous teammates is intriguing.

This issue is also particularly noteworthy for the return of Jean-Paul Valley, the original Azrael, and the man who replaced Bruce Wayne as Batman in the early ’90s Nightfall storyline. How he connects to the Michael Lane version of Azrael (if at all) remains to be seen, and I can only assume Knightfall is no longer canon. But longtime fans may get a kick out of seeing him again, and hopefully not for the last time. As we open the issue, Batman seems to be trying to recruit him. I’d love to see him return as either a part-time ally, or even an enemy.

It’s not often you see Batman playing the good cop. But that’s exactly what we get here, with Batwoman in the bad cop role. She comes off as a hardened drill sergeant, while Batman plays the supportive mentor. It’s a side to him that don’t see quite as regularly. At least not since Batman & Robin ended. What’s more, Batwoman gets put over really well. Especially when she surprises Bruce with the knowledge of his secret.

Eddy Barrows has earned this run on Detective Comics. He’s had memorable runs on both Nightwing and Superman and recently spent some time on Martian Manhunter. He’s good with acting, and emotion, which shows here. From the fear in Azrael’s eyes as Batman closes in, to the intensity and anger from Kate when a mysterious figure appears in her apartment. He’s able to inject sympathy into the otherwordly Clayface as well as any artist I’ve ever seen (shown above). He connects you to the characters well in that sense.  Barrows’ rendering of Batman’s cowl evokes memories of Michael Keaton’s costume from the Tim Burton movies. Inker Eber Ferreira and colorist Adriano Lucas also deserve credit for making the presentation so clean, and beautifully shadowy.

Detective Comics #934, Eddy Barrows, BatmanIt’s Barrows’ body proportioning I’m not certain about. There’s a panel in which The Spoiler is looking down on a crime in progress, and it looks like her legs are separated from her torso. There’s an otherwise beautiful shot of Batwoman swinging through the city in which our heroine looks just a bit too lanky. Barrows also has a weird thing about leg positioning, as we see in a shot of Batman swooping into a building (shown right). It’s a similar bizarre position to the one we saw on his Nightwing #1 cover.

Part of what made DC Universe: Rebirth #1 such a feel-good issue was the combination of story intrigue, and justice finally being done to characters that had gotten a raw deal in recent years (Wally West, Ted Kord, etc.) Detective Comics #934 is similar in that respect. The two issues also weren’t afraid to show us some emotion and humanity. Between Kate’s often volatile nature, the villainous tendencies of Clayface, and the presence of the younger heroes, I suspect there’ll be no shortage of those things going forward. That’s a good thing.

Image 1 from insidepulse.com. Image 2 from comicbookmovie.com.

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A We Are Robin #7 Review – Middle Child Syndrome

We Are Robin #7 coverTITLE: We Are Robin #7
AUTHOR: Lee Bermejo
PENCILLER: Carmine Di Giandomencio. Cover by Jorge Corona.
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: December 16, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I really wish they’d stop lumping Jason Todd and Tim Drake together. It’s happening in Batman & Robin Eternal, and now it’s happening in Robin War.

I think I get the how and the why of it. Dick Grayson is the original Robin, and Damian Wayne is the current Robin. So Jason and Tim are left in an awkward “middle child” position. There’s not necessarily enough time to focus on them individually while still keeping the plot going, so writers put them together. To an extent that makes sense. They have such conflicting personalities that they work as a bickering duo. But they both have such rich histories that it’s a shame to see them lumped together merely by default. Hell, in this issue they’re lumped together to try and kill each other!

Yes, in part four of Robin War, Red Hood and Red Robin are pitted against each other by the Court of Owls in a fight to the death, in an attempt to decide who the new “Gray Son” is. But Jason and Tim have a few tricks up their sleeves. Meanwhile, Dick Grayson and Batman (Jim Gordon) search for the truth about Councilwoman Noctua, creator of the “Robin Laws.”

We Are Robin #7, Red Robin, Red HoodThe fight between Tim and Jason isn’t anything special, and it more or less goes the way you think it will. You’d think the Court would have had the foresight that two young, athletic guys who aren’t restrained in any way would end up doing what they did. Also, Carmine Di Giandomencio does what I talked about in the Grayson #15 review, and puts facial features on Red Hood’s helmet. That never ceases to be obnoxious.

Sadly, while some of Di Giandomencio’s layouts are interesting, his art doesn’t do it for me here. It’s not that he’s bad at what he does. It’ s more that what he does looks awkward compared to the art we’ve seen in previous installments, particularly Mikel Janin’s work in Grayson. Characters’ faces look awkward at times, as does their body language. This is particularly true when we get to the scene in the prison. There are a few panels where Damian looks more twisted and insane than observant and determined.

The scene with Grayson and Gordon is okay. But there were a couple of things that struck me. On page 3, there are a pair of panels that show Gordon catching a dangling Grayson after he slips climbing up a building. Firstly, I find it odd that Dick would make such a rookie mistake. Secondly, is Gordon strong enough to hold Dick’s entire body weight? My guess would be no.

We Are Robin #7, Dick Grayson, Jim GordonOddly enough, the idea of Gordon, and the entire world knowing Dick Grayson was Robin/Nightwing is taking some getting used to. Until recently, Dick was pretty isolated in the pages of Grayson. But now that he’s moving beyond Spyral, we’re starting to see more ramifications from what happened in Forever Evil. I still don’t quite understand how the world knowing about Dick’s superheroing doesn’t lead back to Bruce Wayne being Batman. If you remember Batman #1, there’s a big portrait of Bruce, Dick, Tim, Damian, and Alfred in Wayne Manor. If you see that painting knowing Dick’s identity, it’s not that hard to put the pieces together, isn’t it? Especially when the general public knows that Bruce has funded Batman’s activities.

In any event, this issue gives us a brief conversation between Dick and Jim about the ethical nature of letting a youngster work with Batman, and how Gordon justified letting it happen. He even has a couple of lines about child soldiers overseas, and boys organizing to fight the Nazis in Poland. My guess is Lee Bermejo put this stuff in to suggest a kind of real-life basis for the Robin concept. It’s an interesting idea, but it doesn’t cast either Dick or Gordon in a different light, or offer any sort of insight. It’s just sort of there in the middle of the issue.

We Are Robin #7, image 3Also, late in the book somebody in the Robin street crew calls Red Robin “the one with the goofy wings.” It’s always cool when the characters say what you’re thinking as a reader. For that matter, something you’ve been thinking since the damn New 52 started…

Sadly, We Are Robin #7 is largely a step down from its predecessors. The various Robins escaping from their cages felt somewhat anticlimactic, though the cliffhanger does succeed in wetting your appetite for the next installment. I can’t say I’ve been overly thrilled with the body of Robin War thus far. There’s been too much emphasis on this “Gray Son” stuff, which I’ve always felt was rather stupid. Gazing at the solicitations for upcoming issues, my hopes aren’t that high. I’m trying to be optimistic that something cool will happen near the finale, as Tom King is writing Robin War #2, and he’s a pretty damn good writer.

Image 1 from gamespot.com. Images 2 and 3 from adventuresinpoortaste.com.

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A Grayson #15 Revew – “Being a Robin”

Grayson #12TITLE: Grayson #15
AUTHOR: Tom King, Tim Seeley
PENCILLER: Mikel Janin
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: December 9, 2015

***Need to catch up? Check out our look at Robin War #1.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

What does an event crossover like Robin War need to get right in order to be successful? What’s a central idea that they have to really nail? What’s the entire damn story built around?

The answer is: The concept of Robin. And after Grayson #15, I’m not sure if they got that right or not.

The “Robin Laws” are in effect, and anyone who might be construed as a member of the Robin movement is outlawed in Gotham. Now Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne have taken all the members of this street crew underground for training. But which of these so-called Robins really have what it takes? And what happens when the GCPD turns up the heat?

Grayson #15, 2015, Mikel Janin, page 2Let’s talk about Robin, and a recurring device Tim Seeley and Tom King use in this issue, and this concept of “being a Robin.”

Early in the issue, we see Dick ultimately take responsibility for the Robin street gang, as he was the first Robin. I like that idea, and I wish they’d expanded on it a bit more. The thing about Robin, is that both in-story and behind the scenes, he wasn’t designed to be a “legacy character.” He wasn’t created with the idea of the mantle being passed from youngster to youngster. Robin is Dick’s creation, and it had become so well known and so identifiable with Batman, it was inherited by Jason, Tim, and Damian.

But when you look at how Robin is talked about in this issue, it doesn’t come off that way. As Dick and the various Robins are training with Duke Thomas and the various Gotham kids, each of them recite a little verbal essay about being Robin. Each of them is to the effect of: “Batman once told me being a Robin is about ______.” What I object to about that is the verbage “being a Robin” as opposed to “being Robin.” That one letter changes a lot. It’s almost as Batman is a knight of some kind, and Dick and the others were all squires, serving as apprentices until they graduated to knighthood. Even DC has said, seemingly in jest, that Robin is an “internship program.”

Point blank, that’s a really stupid idea.

Grayson #15, Mikel Janin, Robin WarTo be fair, Seeley and King didn’t create it. It’s been around since the New 52 began. Even in Red Hood and the Outlaws #0, which shows us Jason Todd’s New 52 origin story, Alfred refers to the Robin identity as “an opening in [Batman’s] operation.” Why they decided to suck all the humanity out of Robin is anybody’s guess…

Mind you, I really enjoy We Are Robin, and appreciate the notion of a group of kids inspired by Robin. But what good is that if you suck so much of the depth out of the root concept?

In any event, despite a certain lack of depth, the scenes between Dick and Duke Thomas are interesting. Their backgrounds are very different, but they’re both natural leaders. It evokes thoughts of Duke one day graduating to become one of Batman’s partners. But I’d hate to see him simply become another one of the pack.

Seeing Mikel Janin draw the We Are Robin cast is a big thrill. The art on that book is really nice, as is Greg Capullo’s rendering of Duke in Batman. But the photo realism of Janin’s style is a welcome break. The layout of page 2 with the multiple face shots (shown above) adds a certain aura of this being about real kids from a real place. I also appreciate the fact that he draws The Red Hood’s mask as an actual helmet, with no vague facial features present. Other artists should take note. He even manages to make that awful Red Robin costume look halfway decent. We even get a nice take off of the classic Batman #9 cover by Dick Sprang. Awesome stuff.

Grayson #15, Mikel janinYou’d think an event comic based around the legacy of Robin would want to grant the character a little more depth. There’s still some potential in Robin War, but the more they dwell on this “Gray Son” stuff with the Court of Owls, the less hope I have. I was trying to forget all that stuff ever happened…

Images 1 and 2 from adventuresinpoortaste.com. Image 3 from blacknerdproblems.com.

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A Teen Titans #1 Review – Yet Another Missed Opportunity

Teen Titans #1 (2014)TITLE: Teen Titans #1
AUTHOR: Will Pfiefer
PENCILLER: Kenneth Rocafort
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: July 17, 2014

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Teen Titans #1 was DC’s chance to take a series that had fallen on its butt since the New 52 began, and take it in an entirely new direction. There were so many ways the company could have taken this book about teenage superheroes, and made it different than anything else they’re putting out right now. They could have taken a more light-hearted, almost cartoony approach, like Amy Wolfram and Karl Kerschl did with Teen Titans: Year One. They could have recruited a young adult author to take advantage of the popularity of that genre, while also getting some new eyes on the product. Heck, they could have even played up the teens’ everyday lives more than their actual superheroics.

Instead, they gave the book to the guy who wrote Amazons Attack!

Teen Titans #1 sees a mysterious supervillain hijack a bus filled with schoolgirls and go speeding through Times Square. This quickly attracts the attention of our new line up of Teen Titans: Red Robin, Wonder Girl, Beast Boy, Raven, and Bunker. For reasons unclear, the hijacker apparently has a grudge against S.T.A.R. Labs. In any event, the Titans definitely have a new enemy. They also may have a P.R. crisis on their hands, as Bunker snaps on a civilian who nearly uses a slur against homosexuals.

Teen Titans #1, 2014, Kenneth RocafortBefore we get into why this issue sucks, let’s talk about why Teen Titans has sucked overall since the relaunch happened…

In the New 52 canon, the team that began forming in Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth’s 2011 Teen Titans is, for whatever reason, the first and only incarnation of the group that has ever existed. While the book itself, along with books like Red Hood and the Outlaws and Batwoman, initially indicated otherwise, all such conversations have subsequently been edited out of existence. Thus, in this continuity, Tim Drake, Cassandra Sandsmark, and the other heroes from the Lobdell series are the original Teen Titans.

To put it plainly, that sucks. It robs a sense of richness and history from not only the Teen Titans series, but from characters around the DCU. Dick Grayson, Beast Boy, Raven, and Starfire are just a few of those effected. Hell, even if they weren’t called the Teen Titans, can’t we at least say they hung out? Can’t they have been some sort of group to set the precedent?

Teen Titans #1, 2014, Secondly, the Red Robin costume. It sucked in 2011, it continued to suck through 2012 and 2013, and it still sucks in 2014. Brett Booth completely butchered any aura of coolness Tim Drake had by giving him a suit that’s way too busy and gimmicked up. The wings are idiotic, and there are way too many belts, capsules, pouches, pads, etc. This new series was the perfect chance to clean Red Robin up. But they missed the boat on that one too.

Thirdly, and most importantly, for the past few years Teen Titans has been just another superhero team book. Again, a GIANT missed opportunity. The element that makes the Teen Titans different, and what can potentially draw in a different demographic than say, Justice League, is the fact that they’re teenagers. They’re young, moody, and haven’t fully discovered who they are yet. That concept has so much fertile ground for storytelling, and that’s why it’s used so often in popular culture. The last writer to really get what Teen Titans should be about in the 21st century was DC’s very own Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns. If you look back at the first issue of his run, which began in 2003, you see heroes who are rebelling against the adults in their lives, coming to grips with what’s expected of them, and trying to find their place in the world. They were acting like teenagers. Imagine that…

We got hardly any of that in Lobdell’s series, and in this issue we have next to none of it. We have a cover that looks like a Facebook photo, because social media exists. And we have a young hero that takes exception to his sexuality being demeaned. But that’s certainly not something specific to teenagers is it? So what we end up with is just another superhero story. And not a very interesting one, because we don’t know enough about our villain, or what she (it’s a woman, apparently) intends to do.

Teen Titans #1, 2014, Kenneth Rocafort, Wonder GirlKenneth Rocafort isn’t the best choice to handle the pencil, either. This is especially true when it comes to Wonder Girl. Cassandra Sandsmark’s New 52 redesign essentially turned her into a Power Girl clone wearing a variation on Donna Troy’s old costume. As if that weren’t enough, Rocafort draws her without a trace of human emotion. At one point, she rips one of the kidnappers out of the speeding bus, and subsequently stands atop the bus while holding him up with one arm (shown below). She did this because she was angry he threatened to kill a young girl. But judging by her face, you’d think she was picturing herself laying on the beach or something. She seems to be there just to be the hot blonde with big boobs. What is this, The Big Bang Theory?

As for Bunker’s little outburst toward the end of the issue, I don’t have a problem with superhero comics tastefully addressing and incorporating gay issues in our culture. But I don’t have even the slightest confidence that Teen Titans can do that effectively. Yet another missed opportunity.

At the risk of sounding like a run of the mill fickle comic book geek, Teen Titans #1 gives us almost everything the series shouldn’t be. It’s business as usual. And when I open Teen Titans I’m not looking for business as usual. I’m looking for something different, something that takes on the DCU from a different angle. That’s not what this is. And unfortunately, it may be a long time before we see it again.

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