When I first saw solicits for Robin Eternal I found myself pretty excited. Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown teaming up again on a high stakes heist to stop the Magistrate from using a drug to create immortal henchmen? It had me at heist, and again with the promised team up. It’s just about everything I could want in an adventure. Unfortunately, it’s not everything it promises to be.
Robin Eternal starts out pretty exciting. It opens as Robin is in the middle of intercepting a shipment of Lazarus Resin on it’s way into Gotham and shows us quickly how Tim is alone, but pressing on in hopes that he can still help Gotham. While Stepahnie isn’t there at first, she does show up to bail him out of trouble when it becomes obvious he’s in over his head trying to stop this shipment alone. This scene does a great job balancing action with exposition, and by the end of it no only do we as readers understand where Tim and Stephanie stand, but have a good feeling for the world they currently inhabit and the goal of this book. Thankfully, the book doesn’t try to make it all about taking down the Magistrate, just this one job: keeping the Lazarus Resin out of Magistrates hands. It’s an achievable goal, and a good enough start to make me really interested in where things are going.
I also enjoyed Eddy Barrows art here a lot. His style paired with Adriand Lucas’ colors do a great job visually introducing us to the adventure and bring each scene to life, from the gritty rainy start, to the cyberpunk future of Gotham. The colors especially pop in a way that really makes this book fit the feeling of dystopian and future Gotham. They work hand in hand with Meghan Fitzmartin’s script to land the start, and then equally give us a great look at the ways Gotham’s infrastructure has changed.
Unfortunately, that’s where most of my enjoyment with this book ends. It’s not bad, it’s just never lives up to the potential we’re promised in those first few pages. Somehow the issue both flies by and slows down dramatically in the middle. Even when it picks up again at the end, things haven’t quite fallen back together. We don’t get much of what we’re promised. Spoiler is only around for a handful of scenes, the whole idea of the heist never really plays out in the way one would picture a heist going, and there are a number of points where the plot loses me or backtracks on itself.
One of those points is the fact that the narrative tries to paint Tim as having no one and going solo in a way that’s both honoring his family and protecting them, and even doubles down on that by having Stephanie herself say she doesn’t want to keep seeing people die. That’s fine, Tim going solo isn’t entirely new, and I think in this dystopian setting could be played up in an interesting way. However, after the opening scene, we really don’t get a lot of family references or discussion of his solo journey. In fact, he immediately finds help in the form of a previous We Are Robin member who he drags into his heist plan, both negating the idea of him having no one and trying to protect those he cares about from the Magistrate. Tim’s not getting his family involved because vigilantes are being hunted in Gotham, but he’s willing to get a different ex-vigilante so involved? It just doesn’t track well for me.
That’s not a dig at Darcy as a character. In fact, I really enjoyed her inclusion. It’s nice to see some of the We Are Robin characters showing back up, and that Fitzmartin picked Darcy as the character to bring back. She was a good fit for the story, and I really loved the inclusion of sign language in the narrative, both just as a way for characters to communicate and as a tool to keep from being overheard. My problem is Tim’s double standard of asking her to join him on a mission he won’t reach out to his family for, and the fact that if you’re going to try and base emotional moments out of Tim going solo, he should in fact go solo.
One of the other parts of this issue that I wasn’t the biggest fan of was the middle portion. I like Tim and Darcy’s exchange for the most part, up until they start rehashing everything about the Lazarus Resin. They should be planning the heist, but instead a lot of the conversation repeats information we know and that Tim should be aware of. Instead of Tim explaining things to Darcy, it’s the other way around, which doesn’t make sense if he’s the one who’s been tracking it. Then there’s the question of the resin itself. It’s apparently exported from Lazarus pits by the League of Assassins. I can’t help but wonder why Ra’s would sell the key to immortality to the Magistrate, or if it’s not him, why anyone there would partner with him. Instead of repeating information or expanding on something I really didn’t need more details on, the story could have instead turned to planning the heist or in showing even more of the stakes around letting the resin get into the wrong hands.
The ending scenes jump back into action, but definitely feel rushed. Stephanie’s back, Darcy hasn’t just helped Tim get into the transporter but is along for the ride too, and a pivotal moment at the end happens, and then is rushed over. What should be a scene that makes readers go “What??” is just glossed over in two panels. Instead of giving readers time to take in the gravity of what went down or question what might happen next the narrative plows forward because it’s out of time, which I find to be a real shame because I think that ending could have led to a neat cliffhanger. That said, I’m not totally disinterested in how this story will wrap up. In fact, I’m curious to see what Fitzmartin does in the second part, and if she does choose to spend some time on emotional beats we didn’t get to see here.
- Tim Drake is Robin and you’re interested in his (possible) future
- You don’t mind non-traditional heists
- Not everything has to be on a major scale! Smaller stories are your jam
Future State: Robin Eternal promised a lot and while it didn’t live up to those expectations I did enjoy quite a bit of it. I love the inclusion of Darcy as a character, and while the heist didn’t go as planned, I’m curious to see how things play out in the second part. It’s nice seeing Tim have his own adventure again, and while I wish we’d had a little more of Spoiler in this issue, I’m hoping we’ll get to see her shine in the next. If you’re looking for a Future State story on a smaller scale, this might be your cup of tea.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.