Batman: Arkham Knight- Robin Special #1: “The Apprentice”

Written by Peter J. Tomasi

Illustrated by Robson Rocha

Inked by Daniel Henriques

Colored by Rob Schwager

Lettered by Travis Lanham

I’ve always felt a connection with Robin.  From the time I started getting into comics when I was around 12 years old, Robin and Tim Drake in particular felt like a sort of kindred spirit.  And really, why wouldn’t he be?  He’s a kid who gets to hang out with Batman and beat up bad guys.  How cool is that?

While I’ve gravitated more towards the character of Dick Grayson and what he stands for as I’ve gotten older (simply put: the attainability of Batman mixed with the goodness and hope of Superman), I still feel affection for Tim.  After all, I feel almost as if I’ve grown up with him, maturing as he has, growing into roles as the world changes around me just as he went from Batman’s sidekick (and, let’s face it, the best Robin) to a true hero in his own right.

It’s why his now convoluted history in the post-Flashpoint DC Universe is immensely frustrating: he was Robin then he wasn’t then oh wait just kidding yeah he was, there’s some mess about his family being in witness protection, and now he’s portrayed as somewhat cocky and irritable.

Plus his costume is all sorts of awful, but that’s neither here nor there.

So, when it was announced that Robin would have a decent role in Arkham City I got pretty excited.  Granted, his role in the game proper was relatively small, but he had some decent challenge maps and took the lead in the “Harley Quinn’s Revenge” DLC.

Now, with the multiple tie-in comics, novels, and what have you for Arkham Knight, Tim is playing an intergral role in the proceedings.  He had the most interesting chapters in the Riddler’s Gambit novel, a beefed up role in the game, and here he gets his own issue of the mostly pretty good comic prequel.

Tim begins the book training in the Batcave, fighting with some simulation robots standing in for Bane, Clayface, and Killer Croc.  He muses that his greatest weapon is the indifference villains feels towards him, as the only reason they really want to kill him is because they want to kill Batman more.  It’s a pretty good bit of writing from Tomasi, characteristic of how well he’s handled these characters the past few months.

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It’s short lived, though, as Alfred berates him for not being up to snuff and making it obvious that he hasn’t been training with Batman for long.  Tim and Alfred’s interaction here is oddly strained, with Alfred throwing “the other Robins” in his face, coupled with the even more confusing timeline of these stories.  This takes place after Arkham City, where the Joker’s death is referenced and the Titan concoction he was using drives the plot, but several in-game references make it fairly clear that Tim has been Robin for awhile.  Some of these continuity problems can be brushed aside, but the frequency with which they’re occurring along with the severity of the claims is becoming increasingly more distracting.  This series needs to publish a series bible or have a mastermind behind the timelines to insure that everything stays consistent, because as it is right now it’s getting to be unforgivable.

I don't know why, but I thought it was neat seeing the simple old costumes in the Batcave.
I don’t know why, but I thought it was neat seeing the simple old costumes in the Batcave.

After his sparring with both the program and Alfred, Tim heads to his job at Robinson Academy.  He’s a teacher there, imparting wisdom and knowledge on his students, fostering their skills and passions, and being a Class-A, merciless troll toward them.

He's lucky these kids come from money, because they'll no doubt need counseling if he keeps this up.
He’s lucky these kids come from money, because they’ll no doubt need counseling if he keeps this up.

He takes the kids on a field trip to Wayne Labs, where they see the inner workings of the research the company is doing on Titan and the positive effects it can have as Gotham is rebuilt.  It’s mentioned that Wayne Labs is working in conjunction with Stagg Industries in their research into the formula, which is a nice bit of continuity with one of the recent Arkham Knight stories.  Still no further characterization for Metamorpho, though, which is a bummer.

While there, a small group of masked gunmen attempt a robbery, their sights set on the Titan formula.  Tim disappears to don his costume, of course, and this makes way for both the best and worst scenes of the issue.

In a moment that’s absolutely perplexing, Tim encounters his class and Doctor Witt, who seems genuinely unaware of who he is.

"Who are you, handsome masked stranger who has the same build and haircut as Tim who is suspiciously absent?"
“Who are you, handsome masked stranger who has the same build and haircut as Tim who is suspiciously absent?”

I get it.  I’ve been reading comics for years and years and there’s a certain amount of suspension of belief that’s required with secret identities.  Still, he could have at least worn his hood up.

Right before that, though, we got this:

#Rad
#Rad

Sicknasty motorcycles?  All is forgiven, friends.

The point of the issue, I suppose, was for Tim to gain confidence in himself and his abilities.  If this was a Robin just now getting the job that would carry quite a bit of weight, but with the uncertain and conflicting continuity issues it just falls flat.  For a guy who deduced Batman and Robin’s identities, proved himself to get the job, and even engages in cagefighting in this universe, it rings a bit hollow.  As much love as I’ve given Tomasi, it’s not one of his better scripts.

Oh, there’s also a brief appearance from the Arkham Knight, because oh yeah this whole story is supposed to be about him.

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If the writing is off, the art is not.  As much as I love Bogdanovic’s Cappulo-esque style, this may be some of the best work seen on this series thus far.  Robson Rocha’s lines are clean and fluid, even if some of his faces are a tad strange at times, and Rob Schwager’s colors are absolutely fantastic.  Robin’s costume has never looked better, with its brighter greens and reds as opposed to the standard muted colors we’re used to seeing on this design.

In the end, this is a weird anomaly of an issue: a story that needed to see print, as it had been released digitally, but it doesn’t flow with the rest of the series’ narrative.  If anything, it feels like a weird detour rather than a piece of the bigger picture.  As a “bonus issue” in a graphic novel collection it would have been a nice addition, but at full price it really isn’t justifiable as its own issue, no matter how nice it looks.

Recommended if:

  • You’ve been reading the series thus far.
  • You’re a fan of Robin.
  • And motorcycles.
  • And… being a jerk to kids?  Or maybe not that one.

Overall: Passably entertaining, but lacking much substance, this story is plagued with weird timeline issues and a threadbare plot.  Tim Drake has been having a rough time of it on the characterization front in pretty much any book he’s in, and this one isn’t any different.  Rocha, Henriques, and Schwager turned in some nice work, but it almost feels like Tomasi is out of steam.  A late-game misfire in a series that started remarkably strong.

SCORE: 5.5/10