Wow.Â 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.Â Fortunately, comic books run like the Saturday morning serials of yesteryear, the reports of Timâ€™s death have been greatly exaggerated.Â That doesnâ€™t mean Robinâ€™s life wonâ€™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.Â The biggest question is, â€œwhat happened to Robin?â€Â As youâ€™ve probably guessed, Robin is alive, although somewhat battered following the explosion of The Generalâ€™s warehouse.Â What is done so well in this issue is how writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Freddie Williams II hide the extent of Timâ€™s injuries until the big reveal.Â 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.Â The whole back of Timâ€™s head looks like heâ€™s suffered third degree burns.Â It literally looks like his face has been attached to some other person.Â It is very shocking, and leads to the question, â€œWhatâ€™s he gonna do?â€Â Tim even knows things have changed following this attack, as he notes his domino mask wonâ€™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.Â With all the headaches heâ€™s had to face these last two years, going down that dark road is a natural progressionÂ of the character.Â 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.Â This is the second issue where Spoiler claims she is doing it all for Tim because â€œheâ€ (Batman) asked her to do it.Â 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 Timâ€™s current troubles, I donâ€™t see forgiveness coming too soon.Â Â Â She does her best, to the point where she attempts to break up a meeting of the fighting gangs.Â 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.Â Iâ€™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.Â 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.
Itâ€™s already been revealed that Ulysses has been the person behind the Red Robin outfit, and I canâ€™t help but think he had planned this strategy all along.Â If the city fears Anarky, would they then embrace Red Robin, who is willing to go that extra distance to bring the criminals down?Â Itâ€™s a great strategy, and one weâ€™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 heâ€™s got all the angles covered.Â When the warehouse blew up last issue, Robin not only escaped with his life, but he also got a glimpse of General Anarkyâ€™s Red Robin suit.Â The first half of the issue features Tim working on something, but again, it isnâ€™t until the end of the issue when he shows up in Red Robin garb that it becomes clear what he has been doing; heâ€™s pulling the rug out from Ulyssesâ€™ feet.Â Itâ€™s further confirmed when right after General Anarky leaves his hideout, Lonnie gets a text message from â€œRedbirdâ€ and itâ€™s revealed Lonnie is feeding information to Tim.Â Brilliant!
When Dick Grayson grew up, he became Nightwing.Â When the Robin series concludes in February, thereâ€™s no doubt in my mind that Tim Drake will start the next chapter in his life in the pages of Red Robin.Â Robin #181 is really good.Â Itâ€™s easily one of the best Bat-centric titles, right behind Paul Diniâ€™s Detective Comics.Â 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.