Wow.  I mean, really, wow.

After the climactic explosion that ended last issue, and the announcement DC was canceling the Robin title in February, the fate of Tim Drake really seemed to be in question.  Fortunately, comic books run like the Saturday morning serials of yesteryear, the reports of Tim’s death have been greatly exaggerated.  That doesn’t mean Robin’s life won’t be shaken, in fact this issue might be the event that changes everything…again!

There are so many complex issues going on in this issue, that it is probably better to examine these plot points individually.  The biggest question is, “what happened to Robin?”  As you’ve probably guessed, Robin is alive, although somewhat battered following the explosion of The General’s warehouse.  What is done so well in this issue is how writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Freddie Williams II hide the extent of Tim’s injuries until the big reveal.  A close observer will notice the damage early on, but the coloring and shading will cause the causal reader to pass over the hints, until page 10.  The whole back of Tim’s head looks like he’s suffered third degree burns.  It literally looks like his face has been attached to some other person.  It is very shocking, and leads to the question, “What’s he gonna do?”  Tim even knows things have changed following this attack, as he notes his domino mask won’t hide the damage.

Tim has become a very driven character since the last issue, and his constant monitoring of the events of the city, and willingness to rewrite new rules for how things should be run, have turned Tim into a much darker character.  With all the headaches he’s had to face these last two years, going down that dark road is a natural progression  of the character.  In fact, when he dons the Red Robin outfit at the end of the issue, and claims Gotham City as his, readers can really see Tim going down the path that leads him to the future Batman seen in Teen Titans.

With the gang war out of control, and Stephanie trying to keep a lid on it as much as she can, there are some indications that she may somehow be behind all of this in her attempt to make Tim a better hero.  This is the second issue where Spoiler claims she is doing it all for Tim because “he” (Batman) asked her to do it.  I really enjoy the Spoiler/Robin/Tim/Stephanie relationship, and I want to see it continue, but should she be revealed to be the one behind Tim’s current troubles, I don’t see forgiveness coming too soon.    She does her best, to the point where she attempts to break up a meeting of the fighting gangs.  Unfortunately, an attack by Anarky screws that up royally.

I was most interested in the return of Anarky, but again, clever writing and art lead the reader gradually to the reveal – The General has taken down Anarky and is keeping him imprisoned while he masquerades as the masked leader of chaos.  I’m probably one of the small handful of readers who read the Anarky series back in the day, and there was never any mention of, or on panel fight between Ulysses and Lonnie, so it is really surprising that Lonnie is stuck in an Iron Lung, unable to communicate save a computer connected to his brain that allows him to speak in short bursts.

Political scientists and sociologists will probably get a big kick out of this issue, as both Tim and General Anarky lay out their ideas of how society functions under times of stress.  General Anarky believes it will be the way he is able to take control of the city, when the citizens come crawling to him for aid, while Robin believes it is best to let the charade progress in an attempt to catch General Anarky unawares.

It’s already been revealed that Ulysses has been the person behind the Red Robin outfit, and I can’t help but think he had planned this strategy all along.  If the city fears Anarky, would they then embrace Red Robin, who is willing to go that extra distance to bring the criminals down?  It’s a great strategy, and one we’ve probably seen before in other stories, but I like how it has played out in this series.

This issue is not only a turning point for a darker, grittier Robin, it is also the point where Fabian Nicieza proves that Robin is just as good as his adopted father, when he proves he’s got all the angles covered.  When the warehouse blew up last issue, Robin not only escaped with his life, but he also got a glimpse of General Anarky’s Red Robin suit.  The first half of the issue features Tim working on something, but again, it isn’t until the end of the issue when he shows up in Red Robin garb that it becomes clear what he has been doing; he’s pulling the rug out from Ulysses’ feet.  It’s further confirmed when right after General Anarky leaves his hideout, Lonnie gets a text message from “Redbird” and it’s revealed Lonnie is feeding information to Tim.  Brilliant!

When Dick Grayson grew up, he became Nightwing.  When the Robin series concludes in February, there’s no doubt in my mind that Tim Drake will start the next chapter in his life in the pages of Red Robin.  Robin #181 is really good.  It’s easily one of the best Bat-centric titles, right behind Paul Dini’s Detective Comics.  Robin #181 is a great build up to the dramatic conclusion of the Search for a Hero arc, that it earns 4.5 out of 5 Stars.



The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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  1. Maximus Rift
    December 19, 2008 at 8:05 pm — Reply

    You know, I don’t mean to say that I disagree with the review, but I’m sick of dark stories.

    I need to start reading something more positive and uplifting.

    It’s probably not the right place to say this, but that’s the way I felt after reading about Tim Drake becoming Red Robin.

  2. December 19, 2008 at 8:36 pm — Reply

    Rift: You are probably right about this being a downer if you are hoping for an uplifting series. You might want to try Booster Gold as it is pretty light.

  3. shamon temple
    December 20, 2008 at 1:10 am — Reply

    great review i loved this issue along with the outsiders from this week .

  4. nu
    December 20, 2008 at 12:54 pm — Reply

    I would say that this is a bit of a tease here with tim donning the red robin cape and cowl. there is still a good chance that he will become batman in battle for the cowl. especially with kingdom come things coming true, then dick may eventually be red robin. personally I dont want to see dick as batman because he has already done it. I would much more enjoy it if they would give tim or jason a shot. which may come true with the rumor out that it is jason todd that becomes batman and that damian either kills him or is responsible for his death which then leads to bruce coming back as batman. I think the bigger questions right now are who is the new azrael and who is the owlman soon to be seen in the outsiders.

  5. Ricco
    December 20, 2008 at 2:09 pm — Reply

    New Azarael is just that Azrael, brought back from the dead by a higher power. Dick IS going to be the new Batman and Damian WILL become the new Robin. The “Robin” comic will end and it will be called “Red Robin” from now on….

  6. heffison
    December 20, 2008 at 8:33 pm — Reply

    I still don’t see the point of this, no matter how well done it is. You have a dark, driven Batman already, so why take him out of the picture, grab a different character with his own issues and personality, and force him to become a shorter version of the Batman you just tossed aside?

    There was a cover shot, I think from the first issue of Battle for the Cowl, that looks like DC thinks Damian can be turned into a goofy comic-relief Robin. Not with that character’s background. This is starting to feel like someone took all the masks and cowls from the Batfolk, laid them out in a row, and made the worst possible casting decisions to fill them. I just hope they can, and are willing to, get everyone back where they need to be after this has run its course and Bruce comes back as Batman. (Bonus points if it involves Conner Kent announcing that he has returned, and Dick can have the Nightwing name back again.)

  7. Brad
    December 20, 2008 at 10:31 pm — Reply

    I’ve enjoyed Tim Drake since he got the job. It’s been a while since I picked up one but it looks like this will be well worth it. Personally i’ve always liked Tim the best of all Robins.

  8. December 21, 2008 at 8:42 pm — Reply

    @ Brad: I agree that Tim’s been the best Robin thus far (I like Mr. Grayson better as Nightwing than I ever did having him as Robin). I, personally, hate what they’re doing with all of the characters right now, though.

  9. Katie
    December 22, 2008 at 8:18 pm — Reply

    i really enjoyed this. i absolutely love tim. but i dont want his to be batman. i think that dick has the best ability to actually grow as a character under the cowl. (and if the tomorrow arc of TT was any indication- tim will just go a bit nuts under it.-which i dont want at all)
    i DO want conner to come back tho. and bart. . .
    i agree with Jacin. i hate what they r doing right now. bruce will be back. he has to be back and damian is a little shit.
    i know this is a side note but has it been confirmed about wats happening to Oracle? so much is floating around but i cant find anything solid.

  10. Shdowbear
    December 22, 2008 at 11:34 pm — Reply

    unless they change it to where Dick is acting more like himself then a stand in for Bruce like he did in Prodical I dont see why he needs to be Batman again unless DC is trying to hide the fact that Prodial even happened. I’d hate to see Dick be batman again he felt uncomfortable and it was all an act for him. But to raise Damien and train him that be interesting tho I always thought it should be Batgirl who should handle damien.
    As for the new Azrael i’m not all that clear on his jean paul valleys back ground but was He was a husband and a father? because thats what the solicts say.

    anyway where is everyone getting all this info on whats coming up I want to read it too

  11. alduarte
    March 30, 2009 at 4:41 pm — Reply

    I doubt that dick grayson is going to be batman, he is already his own hero, and it seems that tim is going to be the new red robin, which im cool with. I think it will give tim the opportunity to grow even more as a his own hero and a character. As for batman and robin, i think that jason todd will be batman and damien will be robin, and i hear that Barbara is coming back as batgirl.

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