Posts Tagged ‘Tim Drake’
Remember in ninth grade, when you were totally into that girl in your Honors English class? She was the only reason you ever feigned interest in the Bouncing Souls and Perks of Being a Wallflower. And then, one day she calls you and is all, “Hey, meet me at the Chinatown Express. We totally need to talk.” Oh, god. Man, you needed to get down there. There she is. In the corner with her $1 side of beef broccoli (beef removed in a poor attempt at vegetarianism) and a fortune cookie. This is it. Oh man oh man oh man. “Hey, there, Girl-in-your-ninth-grade-Honors-English-class, what’s up?”
“I just haaaave to tell somebody! I just lost my virginity to the forward on the varsity soccer team!”
That’s Identity Crisis.
But, what was it exactly that made this book so heartbreaking?
In the 1990s the comic industry began delving deeper and deeper in to events. These events were more geared at getting the readers’ money than actual substance. Investors were buying up anything and everything they could get their hands on, and story arcs like Death of Superman or Spider-Man’s Clone Saga were written to shock rather than move readers, and the characters devolved to cheap shots and gimmicks. By and large comics were gussied up with trading cards, black Mylar bags, holographic covers, and many promises of “out with the old, in with the new”.
Right around 2000 (how appropriate for this countdown), things seemed to change. Marvel produced both Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man and Morrison’s New X-Men while DC released Kevin Smith’s run on Green Arrow. This seemed to mark a change in the status quo and comics began to actually focus on who characters were. In other words, the Big Two opted for quality over quantity. Published in 2004, Identity Crisis epitomized this push towards character development.
As a warning, there will be many major spoilers from here on out.
Before Identity Crisis, if I were to ask a comics novice who Sue Dibny, Jean Loring, Jack Drake, Digger Harkness, or Ronnie Raymond was, the response would probably have been a blank stare. Fortunately, DC had been experimenting with thriller novelist Brad Meltzer, who followed up Kevin Smith on Green Arrow. Pleased with the results, they gave him a seven issue mini-series called Identity Crisis. The premise? Apparently to make you cry.
The Silver Age had established how much Ralph (and the rest of the DCU) loved Sue Dibny. A lot of Batman stories involving Tim Drake talk about how he is the only Robin to have ever had a parent to go home to. Former Flash Rogue Digger Harkness (aka: Captain Boomerang) has decided it’s time to pass the torch to his estranged son, Owen Mercer. Jean Loring and Ray Palmer are trying their best to fix their ridiculously rocky relationship. Brad Meltzer does an amazing job setting you up to feel for all of these pairings before taking each and every one of them out in the most gut-wrenching ways possible. Not to be out-done, Rags Morales managed to capture every ounce of heartache in exquisite fashion. Morales’ depiction of Ronnie Raymond’s final moments alone were enough to send me to my cupboard for a hit of Jack Daniels.
Toss in a couple abominable revelations about Doctor Light, Sue Dibny, Batman, the Justice League, and the fact that Identity Crisis was one of the most referenced works in 52 (arguably the turning point in current DC continuity) and you will see why Identity Crisis made #1 on our list. Perhaps Joss Whedon put it best in his introduction for the trade: “Even if you know what happens, you have to live through it. That’s the feeling this book gives you — of living with these people through their pain and triumph and madness, and did I mention the pain? You will come through it with a new understanding of the world before you. You will see.”
There you have it, folks. Identity Crisis was High Five! Comics’ favorite comic of last decade. It wasn’t the most important comic, nor did it revolutionize the industry. We picked Identity Crisis because it made us cry. There were no gimmicks. There were no cheap shots. Just a cast of characters transformed from b-listers to people we genuinely cared about. The last decade saw an abundance of high-quality and entertaining work. Yet, at the end of the day it wasn’t the powers, or the costumes, or the action that we loved most. Identity Crisis was a story about fragile humans, ripped from their tough-guy lifestyle, and doing the best they can to cope with a harsh world.
Sometimes comics make us cry. Here are the top ten comic moments that made Maggie sob, Jonny bleary-eyed, and set ole Rob a-drinkin. These are pretty much ranked in order of how hard Maggie cried. Except one, but she’ll never admit which one.
(10) Archie & Veronica’s Wedding – Maggie: SHUT UP. This issue will make 99% of women cry like babies, so just -HEY! SHUT UP!
(9) Beak Beats Beast – Maggie: Cassandra Nova, that twisted, sick bitch, mind controls poor, confused Beak into beating the shit out of his mentor and bestest buddy, Beast. WITH A BASEBALL BAT. No matter how hard he tries, Beak can’t stop beating the good doctor, apologizing to him and crying the whole time. Man, imagine being forced to beat the shit out of your childhood hero.
(8) Astounding Wolf Man’s Wife, Murdered – Maggie: The weeping moment here was less the murder itself than the fact that Gary was blamed for the murder. Frak, the ONE GUY you trust to help you deal with your lycanthropy (who happens to be a vampire) up and chomps your wife. Then you get framed for it and your ONLY daughter hates you. You also lose your fortune and your home. But man, when Gary didn’t even de-wolf and cradled his dead wife in his arms and shrieked, jeez.
(7) Reddy Loses His Arm – Maggie: The Red Tornado becomes human, makes real hot sexytime with his wife, truly hugs his kid for the first time – it’s great. Then he gets into a fight with Solomon Grundy, who rips off his arm, practically killing him. While this is going on, his wife has to watch helplessly through an unbreachable portal. I didn’t know what my worst nightmare was until I read this. (Well, until I saw that one episode of Battlestar where Boomer, well, you know, with Helo.)
(6) Tim Drake’s Father, Murdered – Rob: Pretty much the entirety of Identity Crisis could fit in this post (Ronnie & Sue!) but, when you think about it, nothing is as tragic as the death of Jack Drake. Tim was the only Robin who actually had some family left and that was all taken away from him when Jean Loring sent the original Captain Boomerang to attack. Despite getting shot numerous times, Captain Boomerang managed to throw a boomerang straight into Jacks’ chest, killing him. All the while, Tim is listening in on his dad over Oracle’s frequency, unable to get there in time. OOF.
(5) Black Canary, Tortured – Rob: Oliver Queen had never killed anybody before. That was before he and Dinah moved up to Seattle, Washington and ended up taking up their own little projects, hers being trying to break up a drug ring. That’s before Ollie happens to hear that the head of the drug cartel was found dead and that he still hadn’t seen from Dinah. When he tracks her down, he finds her strung up, beaten to a pulp, bleeding profusely, nearly naked, and being threatened by a man with a knife. If that image isn’t heartbreaking enough, the only thing she can say to him while Ollie holds her near lifeless body? “Oliver, sorry I missed your birthday.”
(4) Buddy Finds His Family, Murdered – Jonny: As a man there are certain survival instincts that nature puts in us (by the way I’m a man). Call it God, call it nature; we’re hardwired to protect our “zone” with our lives. Obviously women do this too, but for them it’s a much more holistic experience. Men, we want to fucking DOMINATE and OBLITERATE any perceived threat. We won’t get into the psychology of this. If you’re a dude you know what I’m talking about, and if you’re a woman you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Buddy Baker. He is one of the few, if any, super heroes who had a family integral to his story rather than some minor aspect of his background. Ellen, Cliff, Maxine. I still know the names of Buddy’s family, and as a man who was months away from getting married when I read this comic it was completely devastating to see Buddy’s family sprawled on the ground of his own home and lying in their own blood. This was all the more poignant because this wasn’t just a casualty of some war or what have you. This represented a fundamental failure on Buddy’s part. He chose to follow his dream and be a superhero, and while he was out with HIS dream, the family that he was supposed to protect with his LIFE was butchered in his OWN HOME. As a man I cannot possibly think of a more horrific scene to come home to, and this was the most gut-wrenching piece of literature I’ve ever read.
(3) Kitty & Colussus in Astonishing X-Men – Maggie: So Kitty phases through about a million feet of metal to find presumed-dead for years Peter Rasputin captured like a lab rat. Imagine finding your long dead first love alive and well. She lands right in front of him when she drops into the sub-basement, he runs through her, she puts her hand to her heart. And then! They get together and it’s adorable. But then Kitty phases a giant bullet through the Earth, saving the world, and Peter loses her again. Fuck. I’m getting upset just typing this.
(2) Snow Sends Ghost Away – Maggie: Snow & Bigby’s zephyr of a seventh child is a bit, um, special needs. Snow didn’t even know Ghost existed until Frau Totenkinder dropped the hint, but by the time Snow figured it out, it was too late, Ghost was wanted for murder. Snow sits alone speaking to her immaterial child, tells him to go, far, far from here and find his exiled Daddy. She bursts into tears. *I* burst into tears.
(1) Coast City Solidarity – Maggie: So at the behest of Cyborg Superman, Mongul completely destroyed the place, along with nearly all of it’s seven million residents. As if that weren’t bad enough, it’s champion, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, freaks out in the wake of the destruction, gets possesed by Parallax AND the Spectre and then (mostly) dies. But once he comes back to life, he wants his city back. Coast City is rebuilt, but after the destruction, no one wants to live there. During the Sinestro Corps War, Coast City is under threat yet again but just when the worst is about to happen and Hal himself has almost given up? Thousands of tiny green lights (shit, I’m getting choked up) start shining through the sparsely populated Coast City. Hal ends up kicking Sinestro’s ass over the rooftops of Coast City, which is reborn as “The City Without Fear.” Aaand I’m officially verklempt again.
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Looking through my comic collection, I see that I somehow wound up owning the end of every Robin’s career as the sidekick. I’ve got The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, where Dick Grayson decides that he’s a little old to be running around rocking underoos and becomes Nightwing. I’ve got Batman: A Death in the Family where readers decided to kill off Jason Todd forever and ever and nevermind. And now, I’ve got Red Robin #1-3.
Now that Bruce Wayne is busy getting his skull licked by the Black Hand in Blackest Night (ew) and Battle for the Cowl is over, Dick Grayson has surprised absolutely nobody by taking over the role of Batman. First order of business? Taking the Robin uniform off of Tim Drake (who wants to be known as “Tim Wayne” from here on out) and putting it on Damian (who refuses to call Tim anything but simply “Drake”). Obviously, this is the kind of snivelling brattery that might make the now former sidekick cranky. So Tim has a little pissy fit, slaps Damian (dude, Damian almost killed you in Batman and Son and all you can do is bitchslap him?), knocks over some shit around Wayne Manor, then comes to the conclusion that Bruce Wayne ain’t dead. Revelation!
Tim decides to find Bruce, taking up the tarnished mantle of Red Robin, a persona already used by both Jason Todd (in Countdown to Final Crisis) and Ulysses Armstrong (formerly known as both the General and the shitty version of Anarky). Along the way, Tim is both helped and hindered by a bizarre assortment of characters including friends Cassie Sandsmark and Stephanie Brown (in what may be her last appearance in her Spoiler persona [It’s her second to last. Maybe. -M]), and enemies; the Wild Huntsman (who hasn’t been seen in, like, fifteen years or something and I’m pretty sure is dead), and finally, fucking Ra’s al Ghul.
One of my favorite things about this book is Chris Yost’s decision to use Tim Drake’s thoughts as the entire framing narrative. But there’s no Green Arrow preachiness, here. Instead, you get captions involving everything from the inane (when he blocks a punch by a Spanish guy with robot fire hands, the caption reads “Manos de fuego?”) to Tim judging his own actions immediately after he does them (“Stupid, catching that punch”). You’re along for the ride in Tim Drake’s head, which makes the entire story that much more relate-able.
I’m also digging the art of Ramon Bachs (most famous for some Front Line Marvel work and, holy shit, Dark Horse made a Shrek book?). His drawing of the Wild Huntsman in issue three had me rolling. I don’t know if it was supposed to be funny or not, but in a story with a much lighter tone than pretty much everything else going on in the DCU right now, I found it totally absurd in the best way possible. Unfortunately, Bach only has the gig until issue five. Oh well!
Anyway, this book is awesome enough that I broke my wait-for-the-trade rule. Totally worth getting into if you’re into the Batman: Reborn story line. If you’re gonna drink with this book, knock back some Arrogant Bastard ale since most of the characters in Red Robin seem to be, well, arrogant bastards.