STORY: Scott Lobdell
ART: Tyler Kirkham and Batt
Just like with Superboy #10, Scott Lobdell proves with Teen Titans #0 that he’s not completely inept at writing the characters he’s been given. For this “Zero Month” issue, Lobdell gives us the origin of Tim Drake, better known as Red Robin: former protege of Batman. A few months ago, Lobdell shocked the fan base at San Diego ComicCon by announcing that Tim Drake was never an official ‘Robin’ of Batman’s. Instead, Tim’s been Red Robin since he became a caped crusader. In essence, Lobdell majorly altered the character history of arguably the most iconic Robin of them all (at least, on par with Dick Grayson) – this was a big pill for fans of the third Robin to swallow. But putting aside comic book fanaticism, it really doesn’t make that much of a difference – Tim still fills the ‘Robin’ roll at Batman’s side, his costume is basically an all-red Robin get-up, and he eventually moves on to let another youngster take the sidekick roll. The truly interesting thing about Teen Titans #0 is how well Lobdell reinvigorates a character who was more or less a carbon copy of Bruce and Dick when he was originally introduced.
Tim Drake is now a prodigy in both the physical and mental arenas. He excels at all intellectual projects, has the potential to be on the US Olympic gymnastics team, enjoys a completely happy home life, and impresses everyone he meets…and that’s the problem. After observing Tim in person, Bruce rightfully decides that Tim doesn’t shouldn’t be Robin. Dick Grayson and Jason Todd came into the roll of Batman’s sidekick because their lives had been shattered and broken, same as Bruce years and years ago at the hands of Joe Chill. Tim Drake’s life couldn’t be better – he’s got a bright future and his parents love him. There’s literally no reason for him to be Robin. But of course, Tim has a secret obsession with Batman’s secret identity.
This is where Tim goes from being a Golden Child to being a multi-faceted character who has a huge flaw: pride. After falling into Bruce’s trap by following set-up clues, Tim gets scolded by the Batman who tells him to lay off and just enjoy his life. Unsatisfied with that response, Tim uses his exceptional hacking skills to steal the Penguin’s fortune. If this behavior seems alarming and odd, well, it is. Tim’s meeting with the Bat didn’t discourage him so much as it validated his actions – Tim took the next step in his fight against crime without Batman’s consent because Batman even bothered to meet him at all. Lobdell has done good work in making Tim fundamentally different from Dick and Jason before him. His pride in himself becomes his weakness. Now, this wouldn’t be a Batman-related story without at least some tragedy. The hacking stunt causes the Penguin to put out a hit on Tim and his parents.
Tim’s parents don’t die. Lobdell avoids his pitfall and instead puts the Drakes into the witness protection program. The twist comes when Tim is left behind in Gotham – as a perceived orphan at this point – to have the chance at good and successful life he wouldn’t get being forced to hide who he is in witness protection. The end result is that even though he’s seen and treated as Bruce Wayne’s orphaned son, Tim’s parents are still alive. Somehow, this is going to tie into future stories, whether it be the upcoming “Death of the Family” crossover (which would make a lot of sense, considering the familial elements at play in this issue), or future arcs.
All in all, Teen Titans #0 is fantastic. Scott Lobdell’s writing usually leaves a lot to be desired for me, as a reader and a critic. This month, though, he really stepped up his game and gave a solid origin story for Tim Drake that may not be what hardcore fans wanted, but manages to change the character enough to make him interesting again.