Tim Drake, meet Tim Drake.
Over the past year, Tim Drake’s absence has loomed large since being abducted way back in Detective Comics #940. Thinking their ally dead, Batman and his extended family have had to work through the grief felt after losing a loved one. In his absence, Tim has played a part in the larger mystery of Mr. Oz and his interference with the DC Universe. Since the Rebirth special last summer, Oz’s motivation has been second only to the apparent tampering of the timeline at the hands of Watchmen‘s Doctor Manhattan.
Now, Oz has been revealed to be Superman’s Kryptonian father, Jor-El, and Tim Drake has made a jailbreak. While he’s still trapped somewhere in the facility, he’s no longer contained to a single cell, and in escaping he’s encountered a surprising fellow prisoner: himself.
From the future.
One of the greatest accomplishments of Detective Comics #965 is reinstating Tim’s classic origin. Gone is the New 52’s retelling, which cast Tim’s family as a target of the Penguin, forcing them to take new names and go into witness protection. So, yeah, it was… not great. At least his parents are still alive, though.
Instead, Tynion has all but confirmed that Tim deduced the identities of Batman and Robin through smarts and observation, eventually earning their trust and saving the day when the Dynamic Duo (well, Batman and Nightwing) face death at the hands of Two-Face. Brandon did a great job of recapping it last issue, but really, if you’ve never read “A Lonely Place of Dying,” do it. It’s great.
Now that we’ve reestablished our Tim Drake’s history, it’s time to learn about his future self’s story. So, much like the previous issue, this week contains an awful lot of storytelling and just a little bit of plot advancement.
Unlike the previous issue, though, I didn’t find it quite as involving. Part of that is my fault, I’m sure, as I actually haven’t read the “Titans Tomorrow” story that this Tim Drake is from. Tynion does a fairly effective job of summing up his story and motivations, to be sure, and I can at least connect the dots and understand why he became the way he is. Like the younger Drake, it’s hard for us to truly sympathize with the cold, hardened older Tim. Even though he’s more cerebral than his fellow Robins, Tim is still ultimately good and wants to protect Gotham. One of the things that makes him so appealing as a Robin, too, is the fact that he doesn’t want to be Batman; instead, Tim recognizes that Bruce’s mission is to be Batman and Robin is there to keep him grounded, to appeal to his humanity. That’s responsibility enough for Tim, who was Robin because he wanted to be Robin.
This future Tim, though, let his tech-skills and desire to see Bruce’s mission through get the better of him, resulting in a much more tactical, almost fascist Dark Knight. He sees Robin as a means to an end, and insists that his younger doppelganger will eventually fall. To him, there is only one path, no matter how many times he tries to stop it.
The two Drakes have an interesting dynamic, though there’s nothing to convince me that the younger Tim will ever wind up like the other. That might not be the point, though. The purpose of their meeting may have a grander, meta purpose in reasserting the sense of history that was largely missing in the five years of the New 52. Even though the older Tim’s future is a speculative one, it was still firmly rooted in a present that relied on a Tim Drake that was Robin. Like reintroducing the “Lonely Place” origin, this is also a way of saying that, yes, the “Titans Tomorrow” story happened, in one way or another.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but with a casual reference to Hypertime I’m sure there’s at least a little bit of credence to my theory.
From a storytelling standpoint, there’s not much here that I didn’t at least appreciate, though I found it hard to love. With such a reliance on establishing the older Tim’s history and point of view, the issue could get really wordy and dry, which is something that has plagued Tynion’s run from the beginning. I do love the strides he’s taking in making Tim Drake back into who he should be, I just wish there was a little more… bounce or life, I guess. The writing can get pretty clinical at times, making the story drag.
Then again, Tynion also understands the relationships Tim has developed over the years. There’s a reference to “Conner” that the younger Tim doesn’t understand, a response which both hurts the older Tim and strengthens his resolve to escape and change the future. It’s a great bit of storytelling, relying on the characters and their actions rather than a bunch of words to convey the message.
Eddy Barrows’, technically skilled as he is, contributes to the often difficult reading experience as well. He’s almost overly reliant on double-page spreads, which should give the story an epic, huge scope but instead makes it rather exhausting. There are quite a few interesting panel choices and layout schemes, indicating a keen eye for design, and no two pages look the same. The book is only twenty pages long, though, and 16 of those are two-page layouts. With so much dialogue and the ever-changing layout designs, it becomes overwhelming at points.
And really, Barrows’ work is… I won’t say inconsistent, but maybe not quite suited to the material. There are individual images, aided by Eber Ferreira’s heavy inks, that are shaded so well that they would make for great individual display images. As part of a narrative, though, they lack a certain spark and energy. The layout work is dynamic and creative, while the figures contained within are often static and stiff. It looks fine as a still image, which is what it is, but not as one that conveys movement.
Qualms with the visuals aside, I’d be remiss not to mention the nods to “A Lonely Place of Dying.” They’re not as numerous or overt as the previous issue, but even just seeing a title card hearken back to the earlier story makes me crack a grin. If Tynion does nothing else, he makes Batman feel like he has a long, involved history again, and for that I’m thankful.
- You love the Drake.
- You’re piecing together the Oz mystery one bit at a time.
- Hypertime, yo.
Overall: Dense as all get out, this issue succeeds thanks to its intents more than its execution. I like what Tynion is trying to do, and considering Tim is my favorite Robin, of course I’m glad to see him back in action. Still, this issue verges on information overload at points, aided mostly by the fact that I’m not familiar with the story it’s referencing. The story and art both suffer from the same problem: the broad strokes are interesting, it’s just the details that aren’t engaging. I appreciate what the story is accomplishing, I just wish it was handled with a tad more finesse.