Still, there’s a Robin in the first issue of this mini series teaming the second stringers of the Superman and Batman family, and while I used to love Tim Drake’s perky teen wonder, his Red Robin incarnation depresses me. He’s the nice kid who’s suddenly realised Life is Serious and he’s going to drip angst until he really does grow up.
This issue also features the new Nightwing, Chris Kent, who has been annoying me in the pages of Action Comics of late with his puppy dog devotion to religious super-nut Thara aka Flamebird.
So it’s safe to say these aren’t my two favourite heroes together. Happily, Sterling Gates is up to the task of writing a decent story featuring two characters in search of charisma. The plot is simple enough – Nightwing finds Red Robin in Amsterdam and asks for help in retrieving the captured Flamebird. It actually makes sense that Chris seeks out Tim, as they became pals for about two minutes when Chris was a young kid, and Tim was a chirpy wee Robin.
Tim does the miserable git thing, proclaiming that ‘helping other people isn’t my job anymore’. Poor love. Chris bores Tim into submission via tales of old Krypton. Back in Gotham they use brains and brawn to take down the Penguin and Kryptonite Man and rescue Flamebird, who has had another of her doomy visions. Could someone please drug that girl? Oh well, it’ll get us to issue two, no doubt.
While Gates doesn’t make Tim likable again he keeps his current character on moody model. He has more leeway with Chris, who shows he’s learned some good lessons from Superman when he spent a few weeks as Clark and Lois’s sort-of adopted son. It’s just a shame Greg Rucka created Chris to be a passive soul, as he really should have given Red Robin a right rollicking for his attitude – a spot of heat vision to the tights, maybe. Still, there are one or two pleasant moments, including a discussion about Chris’s tactile telekinesis that had me wondering if, like Superboy, he’s not so much son of Krypton as clone of a clod.
Penciller Julian Lopez and inker Bit jolly things along nicely with good, clear storytelling. The panels have a pleasing dynamism, with the highlight being a splash page of Tim and Chris leaving Amsterdam, all gritty determination and newfound hope. The close-up of Pengy is a classic. And would it be wrong to admit I found their Kryptonite Man rather sexy?
I won’t, then. There’s also a cracking shot of a last-page surprise villain which promises interesting times ahead for the rest of this series. So far as this issue goes, it’s solidly entertaining, with Gates, Lopez and co making decent lemonade from the bitter lemons handed them.
Phil Noto’s cover is a beautifully composed image, with Red Robin looking splendid as a smile plays upon his lips and Kyptonite Man truly formidable beneath him.
What this book is missing so far is a wow factor – it feels like a well-delivered technical exercise rather than essential reading.