NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for “Detective Comics” #939
There have been plenty of surprises in the DC Comics “Rebirth” so far, with underrated heroes getting top-notch creative teams and storylines, and even old favorites getting a host of new, unforgettable moments. But in the “Rebirth” so far, the success and re-invention of Batman hasn’t left much room for Robin. No, not Dick Grayson (who’s off on his own new adventure), or Jason Todd, either (also off on his own awesome mission). We’re talking about Tim Drake – better known in recent years as Red Robin.
To this point, Tim has played an important role in the re-numbered “Detective Comics.” And with writer James Tynion IV crafting a new adventure calling upon most members of the Batman Family (and even one reformed villain), seeds were being planted that a new and different future lay ahead for Tim Drake. But in the latest issue of “Detective Comics” Drake shows that there’s no sacrifice he’s unwilling to make for his friends, family, and city – but this fight may be more than even he can take.
DC Rebirth Has Red Robin Retiring?
Considering that Tim Drake may not have a shocking origin story or decades of solo adventures and reboots, the average reader may simply assume that Drake is… well, just the young man who happens to be wearing the green and red suit of Batman’s sidekick. But in all honesty, that’s selling Tim well short. For starters, Tim Drake is the only ‘Boy Wonder’ who wasn’t scarred or shaped into a hero by some family tragedy, or the murder of his parents before his eyes – and a wealthy Gotham billionaire swooping in to save him. No, Tim Drake wanted to join Batman’s crusade – and to do it, he first deduced that it was Bruce Wayne under the cowl (and that Dick Grayson was his first sidekick, for good measure).
But establishing Tim Drake as a brilliant thinker of his own – referred to by Bruce as an even more gifted detective and intellect than himself – meant that a regular career in the cape and mask wasn’t tapping into his full potential. Sure, he led the Teen Titans, and eventually shot off to define his own heroic calling just like Dick had years before (taking the name of ‘Red Robin’). But with “Detective Comics,” Tynion has returned Tim to Batman’s team of Gotham vigilantes. That means a new suit reminiscent of his original, and a chance to fight alongside his current girlfriend Stephanie Brown a.k.a. Spoiler.
Unfortunately for Tim, he’s got a secret. Even more unfortunately, it’s Batman he’s keeping it from.
The “Rebirth” arc of “Detective Comics” began with the revelation that Tim had received a genius grant from Ivy University; meaning, an opportunity for the brilliant hero to advance his education and intellect, aiding not just Gotham, but the world. Of course, to do that means putting down his cape – a task complicated by the sudden arrival of a brand new threat. But in Issue #939, Tim speaks of leaving the cape behind in his most determined terms yet, having put the Belfry (the new Bat-base in a downtown Gotham tower) through its paces, even referring to it as a “gift” for his teammates he’ll leave behind.
If that kind of talk gets you Robin fans nervous, it clearly should: in previous issues, Bruce also seemed to be reaching out for Tim, understanding his need to stand on his own, and letting him know that he was cared for all the same. Even if he couldn’t bring himself to tell Batman yet, Tim clearly accepted the fact that most readers already know: Tim Drake has the potential to be one of, if not the most powerful heroes in the DC Universe.
But first, there’s that aforementioned threat to deal with.
The Colony Strikes
We’ll steer clear of spoiling the exact nature of ‘The Colony,’ since we really would recommend any Batman fans read the run for themselves (especially with the higher profile roles given to Batwoman and Ophan). But what casual fans need to know is this: a powerful organization is set on eradicating a mysterious-and-possibly-totally-made-up menace hiding in Gotham City. It’s this group that Batman’s team was assembled to match, before Batman even knew the specifics of their plans (and at this point in the story, they’ve proven they’re not to be messed with by taking down the Bat himself).
After monitoring the members of the Batman Family and learning firsthand how potent Batman and Batwoman’s training can be, The Colony takes extreme actions: deploying a fleet of drones armed to the teeth, pursuing a variety of targets spread throughout Gotham… and willing to kill hundreds of innocents to take them all out. That’s a job that only a trained team can tackle, so the members spread out across the city, leaving Tim to search for a solution to save innocent lives.
The Final Fight?
Having already tussled with The Colony’s own cyber-genius and managed to come out on top, Tim once again shows that the only thing more dangerous than a genius is a genius willing to put his own life on the line for a cause. Unable to disarm or defeat the automated drones, Tim simply gives them all new targets – actually, a new target. Singular. And it’s a target nestled in the heart of Gotham City dressed head to toe in red, yellow and green.
Just so we’re clear, the threat isn’t exactly one that a superhero can usually tackle – and absolutely not one who lacks any kind of superpower or invulnerability. When Stephanie/Spoiler learns of Tim’s plan to draw every weapon to himself, the team tosses codenames and protocol out the window, with Bruce flying into overdrive as he tries to return to Tim’s side (urging Alfred to do whatever he can from the Batcave). But time has officially run out: leaving the young Tim Drake staring down an army of military drones with nothing but a staff and his wits to save him.
Skeptical fans may scoff at the idea that Tim Drake could possibly fail in destroying dozens upon dozens of drones that simply need to fire on the Belfry collectively, but from the reactions of his teammates and the incredible images from Eddy Barrows, the scene is set for something important. Does that mean Tim Drake is about to fight his last battle? That’s impossible to know. But the issues leading to this point have laid on the legacy, retirement, and ‘moving on’ quite thick. So if this is the sacrifice that finishes Tim Drake off, it would be a worthy, if tragic one.
There may be no DC character more likely to solve a potentially-fatal “thought problem” than Tim, and it’s still possible that a crucial detail – perhaps even the trick up Tim’s sleeve – has yet to be revealed. But with Tim Drake having set the stage for a new wave of Bat-characters, embracing happiness like never before, and facing a sacrifice that would save hundreds of Gotham citizens… well, coming out of this showdown without a scratch seems particularly unlikely at this point.
But fans don’t need to lose hope yet! There’s still a chance that the spunky cliffhanger of the issue (showing Tim standing off against the coming drones, ready to “dance”) will result in a thrilling and satisfying next issue, and not a somber battle. And if you’ve got a prediction to make, let us know in the comments.
Detective Comics #939 is available now.