The mysteries are piling up as Robin tries to put the pieces together. There are clues stranded in a sea of information and he feels like he’s getting closer and closer to unveiling it all!
Since these comics attract a lot of criticism from Tim Drake fans I am always happy to include their points at the beginning of my reviews! While I’ve already mentioned that readers have felt that Tim’s sexuality needs to be explored in a way that doesn’t just point to the fact that he is of that sexuality, I feel like that isn’t really a problem in this issue.
I also saw that people were quite offended at the way that Tim Drake was talking about the clay Robins which kind of goes into how Fitzmartin has been using references throughout this mini-series. There’s clearly a lot of fascination with these other properties (the other Robins and mystery stories) but that fascination is usually brought up in the stories very awkwardly as though Fitzmartin were just showing off her knowledge rather than expressing joy and admiration or wanting to truly adapt these ideas into her own thing. There are many attempts to change and add new things to the roster of references but they get lost in the mix, feeling superfluous and tacked on.
People complain about the narration Tim constantly has going through his mind. Once again, very reminiscent of mystery novels but used in a way that doesn’t work well with the comic format. There is a lot of tell and not as much reliance on the show which can make certain panels feel crowded or some action scenes pack less of a punch.
Before I get to talk about this new issue I just wanted to quickly address the criticism I’ve seen more than once that Bernard is drawn too feminine. On one hand the idea that a male on male relationship has one of the partners present in a feminine way does make it seem like they’re “gay but in a straight way” as they both have to fill the traditional gendered roles of a hetero relationship. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with feminine looking men and it’s not something that, on its own, should cause an issue.
So I’m curious if anyone who was talking about Bernard’s appearance has something more to add about that, let me know in the comments! I read them all and try my best to spread the word in these Tim Drake reviews. Sadly, there are just too many points to address in the comments and so I have to just move on and finally start the actual review of the fourth issue!
Fitzmartin has slightly increased the quality of her writing for this issue. I feel like the narration isn’t as overpowering for example. Yes, there are some moments where people ask Tim a question and he’s just lost, head in the clouds, and the comic just moves on, but for the most part Tim does actually get a word or two in before returning to his mind palace.
I also feel like the background characters are interacting in ways that are more natural and while I get that Tim is the star of the show it’s nice to see that the other people can still have their personalities creep into the story rather than just having them talk about what the plot needs them to. The line “Maybe this is why Batman embraces his sadness. Happiness is distracting.” being the perfect kind of reflection for a Robin in crisis, a thought that could be explored and end up truly representing a massive part of the story! A slightly weaker example would be the opening bit with the landlord who is both insecure, invasive and yet overly curious about the one thing that Tim hasn’t been able to crack the code for. It feels just a little bit too convenient while also still managing to feel like a unique character is interacting with Tim.
The story progression is also a bit more natural in my opinion with the mystery being unveiled piece by piece, connecting and being investigated in a way that actually feels rewarding at times. That isn’t to say we’ve been completely spoiled. The writing is still very clumsy in my opinion and (apart from having a million different disconnected story beats that get forgotten about) I really wish the feelings of characters could be more intuitive than just constantly said out loud.
When characters are talking beyond exposition there’s a constant messiness in the way that dialogue is written. Points are brought up and abandoned constantly, interrupted and never brought up again or sometimes actually lead somewhere and then get taken over by an exposition dump. So while I think there have been improvements I also feel like the dialogue could be tightened up. I want to be able to think about character motivations and realize why characters are acting the way they are instead of being told why and I want the messiness to be addressed when it’s present or to serve a purpose in general.
Riley Rossmo’s art in this issue though. I mean. Wow. Just wow. I am in love with the art of this issue. The page layouts and panel compositions are incredibly dynamic and hectic exactly when they need to be as the visual story elements barge into the page fierce and frantic. The danger feels imminent and the fighting is both a struggle and an ultimately very rewarding victory.
When the pages are calmer the marina, the boat and the city all have enough detail to make me want to linger on them and see if there are any clues left for me. The outlines and eccentricities of Rossmo’s style always showcasing something relevant to the story: an emotion, a character, a detail or action. Such as Tim’s obsessions about the numbers and his inability to decode them culminating into those numbers popping into the frame, looking wavy and uncertain. Or the flashbacks being incorporated seamlessly barely escaping their grey sections yet still managing to creep into Tim’s thoughts and present circumstance.
My biggest problem in the past has been character designs but it’s amazing how consistent the character designs are in this issue. While the previous issues had Bernard sometimes looking decent to other times looking like a sketch drawn on a bar’s napkin this issue just sticks to quality and plays around without abandoning that quality. It’s a shame to me that the writing doesn’t match the art but after this issue I can at least be certain that I will look into Rossmo’s Martian Manhunter work because I need more of this, all of this! There’s a double page spread that I’m considering buying the issue for just so I can have that spread as a poster in my apartment. Seriously, if you’ve had doubts about Rossmo working on this mini-series, this should be an issue that shows you he is more than capable of making this universe come to life!
- Riley Rossmo’s incredible art peaks your interest
- You’ve been dying to see some character progression and self reflection
- A bit of landlord bashing sounds like a fun way to open a comic
I don’t want to make my reviews too long but god I have so much more to say. From the comments I didn’t bring up to the amazing colors and decent lettering, this issue has my mind racing! I know a lot of people are invested in this story, and there’s some serious potential buried deep beneath layers of frivolous story beats and exposition dumps. So while I see some improvements in terms of writing it has a long way to go before it catches up to the insane progress that the art has made.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.
Come check out my other writing at loosedogmagazine.com !