The DC Pride: Tim Drake Special is a collection of all the character’s recent stories featured in Urban Legends along with one new tale. Between them all we see Tim discover his sexual identity, reveal it to Batman, and make peace with his old girlfriend. Is it worth picking up? Let’s see!
I want to quickly make note that there will be spoilers for the new story published in this special throughout my review. I don’t feel I can adequately hide them without the point of my review failing to come through.
So, let’s get on thing straight right off the bat. I love Tim Drake. Along with Dick Grayson he’s probably my favorite DC character. I go into any Tim Drake story with an active desire to enjoy it, despite the last ten years making that a near futile wish.
All that said, I can’t sugar coat my opinion. This special is bad. Very bad.
There are many reasons for this but I’d like to get what is perhaps the most important out of the way first. That is the handling of Tim’s sexuality. Obviously, there will be a group of people out there who will hate this comic regardless of the writing quality, just because Tim is now bisexual. I don’t really know why anyone from that group would be reading this review. They already have their mind made up. However, it is my conjecture that anyone who identifies as bisexual or as an ally of that group should equally dislike this book.
I think my fellow reviewer, Jay Yaws, already covered the problem with making the character bisexual perfectly in his Urban Legends #6 review so I’m not going to cover that. Instead, I have enough to talk about when it comes to the errors in execution.
To begin with, it feels like there is a fundamental misunderstanding of bisexuality present in the writing. This is mostly because Tim is being written as if he is coming out as being gay. He claims that everything he felt about Stephanie was true but he also immediately breaks up with her to be with a random guy he hasn’t seen in years. “You have always been exactly what I wanted and more. I just realized… it wasn’t because of your gender, you know?” No Tim, I don’t know. It seems like this happens because “he isn’t really bisexual unless he’s in a same sex relationship.” To make matters worse, it turns out to break up with her, he essentially ghosted her. His sudden attraction to Bernard and his need to move on from Steph seems to be driven by a desire for a “new toy.” As far as I know, promiscuity is a common stereotype associated with bisexual people and this story seems to perpetuate it. Not good.
So what we have is a Pride Special that devalues a bisexual person’s heterosexual relationships and encourages stereotyping. This isn’t helping or celebrating anyone. Plus, it makes me hate the title character for being a terrible boyfriend. I’m giving Meghan Fitzmartin the benefit of the doubt here. I’m sure none of this was ever her intention but there is no excuse for this to be published. An editor should have stepped in at some point and asked for a rewrite. Full stop. If this is the direction the character is being taken in it has to be done right. Especially given it’s Tim Drake; a character who has endlessly been mistreated in the last decade.
But that’s not all. It’s not just the central message that doesn’t work out. The dialogue and plotting are also very poor.
All the way back in the first page of Sum of Our Parts we were greeted by this gem.
While the new story, The Elephant in the Room, doesn’t have anything quite so blatantly poor, it certainly reaches similar level on nonsense in its plot development. In the very beginning we have Impulse, Superboy, and Tim all working together to fight an intangible elephant (clever, right?). Despite the fact that these three should easily have this situation covered Conner claims they need backup in the form of Steph. Regardless of whether his request is supposed to be friendly prodding or not it doesn’t make sense for him to bring this up. Then, coincidence of coincidences, Steph and Cass immediately show up to make for a “humorous” awkward moment. The only problem is Tim comes out of it looking like a dirtbag.
He wishes he could avoid apologizing to the girlfriend he claimed to love and dumped via vanishing act? What happened to the kind, considerate guy I’ve always known?
Oh, and he has to ask her if she’s mad at him…
To make matters worse the story ends with the most contrived and frankly insulting resolution imaginable. Stephanie explains to Tim how he hurt her and he responds by saying he didn’t mean to. “It’s all just been… a lot.” Then he takes her to see Bernard and…
What Tim did to Steph is the kind of thing that is frequently never resolved. At the very best it takes some serious work. I know if I was her and Tim pulled this on me, I’d be crying. I certainly wouldn’t be hugging his new boyfriend and blubbering about how happy I am.
There are other problems with the writing such as Cassandra Cain being written completely out of character.
Anyone with a passing knowledge of the character should find this dialogue odd. Besides talking too much (a common problem writers have with the character) she is not someone with fully developed social skills and certainly should not be portrayed as a “quirky teen.”
Honestly there is an abundance of stiff or contrived dialogue spread throughout the entire special but I think my point has been well made. As this is a very harsh review, I think it’s worth mentioning that my distaste for Meghan Fitzmartin’s writing in no way reflects a judgement on her as a person. That is something I will not do without meeting a writer personally. At the end of the day, I have to hope that despite everything she can continue to grow as a writer and that at some point down the line I can give her work a great review. For now, this is where I’m at.
Now, I do have to give some credit to the art department. Belén Ortega’s linework is strong and features a very recognizable look. It is also consistent and despite some of the faces seeming a bit too cartoony for my taste I quite enjoy it overall. I will be interested to see her work on something with a better script in the future.
Alejandro Sanchez is perhaps the standout member of the art team as the colorist for Sum of Our Parts. Luis Guerrero does a fine job with The Elephant in the Room but Sanchez’ work lifts the linework up and gives it a greater quality. From the very first page you can see Sanchez’ immense talent. Each hue compliments the others and there is a great depth that his work lends to the page. His work that adds the subtle details like the muscle definition on Tim’s chest is beautifully rendered.
The reason colorists get so little recognition is because a good one doesn’t draw attention to themselves but rather puts everything into enhancing the linework. This kind of colorist can convince a reader that a good artist is a great artist; a rare talent. After seeing Sanchez’ work here I can guarantee he is that type of colorist. I can’t wait to see his work on Dark Crisis.
- You’re looking for some good art
- You can’t stay away from Tim Drake
- Supporting DC Pride is important to you
This isn’t how I wanted this review to go. I would have loved to tell you this book is great but there’s no way to talk around such a weak script. Even outside the mishandling of Tim’s sexual orientation, a story that unintentionally makes the title character look this bad should not have been published. All I can say to close this is that I hope the stories that follow are much better.
DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.