The Road To Red Robin
Tim Drake has gone through a lot in his years as Robin. Taking the route of the academic Robin, he has learned the ropes in action and with Batman not wanting to take chances with his new Robin, he was even trained by an assassin. By all parts and purposes, Tim becomes a very ideal Robin: he's smart, witty and with some help from Dick, becomes very accustomed to dealing with Bruce.
Things started to look up for him, when his father came out of his coma and even when Bruce becomes hurt and he's driven out of their world, Dick pulls him back in by stepping into the cowl until Bruce can come back. Family life also improved: his father fell in love and married and despite the fact that his two lives cause him problems, he comes to terms with them and finds a balance. Things are thrown out of balance slightly when, as Robin, he begins to date Stephanie Brown, also known as the Spoiler. He cannot see her out of costume and despite trying to put her off the cape and cowl business, she sticks with him and the two become an item.
Tim even formed his own team of junior leaguers, much as Dick had formed the Teen Titans. Together with his closest friends in costume, he became the leader of Young Justice. Although he was offered membership to the Teen Titans, he was happy in his current role. This would later change when he would take charge of the Teen Titans and everyone would blend together.
Despite the occational batdickery, girlfriend trouble and troubles with two different lives, things were going alright up until his father became suspicious and find out he was Robin, causing Tim to give it up. This is when things began to really go to hell for him. Stephanie took over as Robin, only to be fired, tortured and killed. A week later, his father was killed and his stepmother had a breakdown. Six months later, his best friend Conner Kent is killed. Eight months later, good friend Bart Allen was killed. Then Bruce adopted him, but was subsequently killed. It's not hard to see a pattern here.
Now, judging that this all happened within the confines of five years, it's not hard to see why Tim might feel as if Robin is his lifeline. The appearance of Damian bothered him significantly and certainly, since Battle for the Cowl era, he has continually refered to himself as Tim Wayne. I was glad to see that played off.
Tim hasn't forgotten where he came from. He now has circular Red Robin birdarangs. He seems to be focussing on the gold and black, perhaps trying to focus on the contrast of light and dark. His fighting style is more like Jason's now, though more precise. His civillian look is more like Dick. I think Tim is losing Tim inside Robin and he's now suddenly realising a lot of his life skills that he should have learned were either learned too early for him to cope mentally or not learned at all, because of the paranoia and double life. Even going to Red Robin, a lot of his reactions, even as a civilian, are pure Robin. He's asking himself if Tim Drake would have done that and coming to terms with the fact Tim Drake, as a whole person, has not existed in some time and therefore, hasn't matured and coped with everything that's happed to him.
Tim notes that he has a lot of anger and aggression. It's not hard to see why. He feels cut off from the people he loves and hurt by them, either because they've taken things away from him or lied to him or even because they've died. He refers to a high profile kidnapping and just taking people out as 'stretching his legs'. It's clear to see Tim is having a 'fight and move on' attitude that was usually more suited to Jason, but for Tim, perhaps that's what Red Robin is about. He needs an outlet.
'Is there even a line to cross anymore? Does it even matter?' These are the words of a young man who has been continually beaten down by the world and it's worst people. This is a young man who has lost his faith in Batman and Robin, someone who's put all their hope in the knights of Gotham only to have his life destroyed. Robin was the last thing he had and despite everything, he did lose it and like any eighteen year old young man, he's bitter about it.
He wants to grow up, much as Dick did at his age. He's out of Gotham, but unlike Dick, he's alone so his bitterness and pain is growing rather than leaving him. He has a lot of problems here. He's depresonalising so much of this: refering to brutal fighting as 'interesting' and the men he's fighting as targets, as any assassin would. He's losing his soul in this so what I hope is that Tim will be finding his heart and soul over the next twelve months so that he'll remember his family, his heart and how good he is at what he does. He needs to accept himself, as most teenagers do and I look forward to his journey. I think Bruce will appreciate Tim having life experience when he returns and it's something he will want in a partner.
Tim's confidence has clearly been shaken by his identity crisis. I don't think it's a coincidence his mother and his father dying storylines were both named 'Identity Crisis'. Identity is hugely important to the Bats. I think their identities are likely both barriers and links; something that protects them (say, if Batman and Robin are fighting, does that mean Bruce and Tim necessarily are and vice versa?) and connects them and it feels like the connections of the family - Bruce, Dick, Jason, Tim, Steph, Babs, Cass and even Alfred have all had their connections shattered. My hope is that when Bruce is back, his heartfelt honesty in his tapes after he died will have had some effect and there will be a grouping together.
Tim is also employing that charming idea that if you say something enough times it'll be true, because he can't stand the thought that he's lost it all. He needs his hope. After all, isn't that what being Robin is all about?
I understand Dick's position here. When he was about Tim's age, he was ready to spread his wings but Dick is failing to account for Tim being Tim and not the same as Dick was at that age. Dick had the Titans and many years of closeness with his family; Tim didn't. Robin was literally everything to him and to have it taken away for the sake of a brat punk by the person he cared about most is such an echo of what Bruce did to Dick with Jason.
Tim clearly feels all the things Dick did in that position. Look at his body language. Before Damian comes in, he's defeatist while Dick is trying to hold things together and be the oldest, despite the fact we know how much he's hurting from Batman. Damian is true brat fashion and let's face it, Robin is a brat sometimes so I can cope with it, not to mention the fact Dick is actually trying to put a leash on the boy. He wants Tim has his partner and Damian as his sidekick. This is the difference in Dick's mind and it's everything he would have wanted at Tim's age, but Tim is not Dick. Robin was everything to him and now, he's not even allowed to be that.
Dick is trying to do damage control. Damian is making thing escalate and he's trying to relate to his brother. Tim is having a fight or flight reaction. He's panicking. He's been Robin for so long - how is he to be anything else? He was his hero and then he had to become his hero and his hate of Damian is clearly clouding his feelings about the Robin suit. Dick see's it as denial and I'm not sure he's completely wrong.
This is perfect. He's lost control, he's having to face up to everything that's happened to him over the last few years that he's been able to ignore by being behind the Robin mask and fighting the mission. He's suddenly realising that he is, once again, Tim Drake. He can get hurt and die, because he's no longer the symbol that Robin was.
Remember the symbols in his early days, from part one? Robin was unkillable, even when Jason had died. Now he's just Tim again and is trying to pick up the shattered remains of his life and he can't. It's hurting him to such a degree that he can't cope at all. Tim Wayne was supposed to be starting over, a new leaf and a new kind of Robin. Now he's just back where he was, afraid and hurting much as he was when his mother died where he had a similar reaction to this.
Quick note about the way Tim looks here: disheveled, hurt, hair messy - when was the last time we say Tim look like this. We haven't. Tim is clearly not taking care of himself (where's Alfred when you need him?) and it's obvious he's suffering. I honestly believe Dick was trying to help, but I think the only thing that will help is acceptance of himself and what's happened to him in the last five years. Hopefully, this is what Red Robin will be.
Tim's decision here seems to be one of a spark. It could be denial on one level but this is Tim. Tim is a thinker. He see's patterns other people miss and knows what he's doing. The shattering here and perhaps, even the blood could be an indication of what he's seeing (the shattering of universes or the corpse linking in) and Tim is single minded about his mission. He wants Bruce back and he knows he's out there. Tim can't help him - but Red Robin can. Robin could never comprimise his morals - Red Robin was Jason's. It had very little to do with morals.
He's terrified he might be wrong so he must look. There's so much of an echo of both Jason and Dick here. Dick, in that he's growing and certainly acting more like him as a civilian. As for Jason, there's an echo of the final part of under the hood here on a purely image level, which they do like to do with both Jason and Tim, where as with Dick it's an emotional level they echo each other with.
All in all, the road to Red Robin has been pretty clear once you go back. It's a good start to what I hope will be an excellent series as Tim leaves all the other aspects of Robin behind him and focuses on Tim for a change. Goodness knows, he's earned it. I know he can be a good man at the end of this and in the end, I think he'll find his family and his heart lie in Gotham.