Robin #125 (2004)
by Bill Willingham, Francisco Rodriguez de la Fuente, & Aaron Sowd

"IS THIS THE END OF ROBIN?" screams the front cover of Robin #125. Apparently not, as the title continues next month with a new (girl) Robin … so it's the end of the road for Tim Drake, the third teen to wear the exuberant costume of Batman's sidekick.

The next Robin also wears the same costume, which calls into question: for all of Bruce Wayne's sophistication, state-of-the-art technology, and seeming omnipotence, he can't develop a less embarrassing or less attention-calling costume for his less experienced partners in crimefighting? You'd think these kids would be super-easy to pick off, with bright red Lycra bodysuit and yellow cape waving around. Wouldn't a teen superhero of today want to look more like something out of The Matrix?

At any rate, I don't read Robin and don't really think Robin warrants having his own comic … he's irritating enough when he shows up in a good Batman title. But I thought, perhaps, Robin would die in some horrible way, as this Robin's (Tim Drake) predecessor (Jason Todd) did (he was gunned down by The Joker). But DC leaves things open-ended for Tim, as Robin merely quits, under pressure from his irate father, who has just discovered Robin's "secret."

The issue is pretty good, narrowly skirting around what an angry father's actual reaction might be, were he to find out that his teenage son had been going out late with, and staying overnight at the house of, a much older, unmarried male companion. Somehow, despite being in an almost blind rage, Mr. Drake does not manage to insinuate that anything more strange than simple costumed crimefighting might be going on. The more obvious subtext is avoided entirely, as it always has been in the long annals of Batman and Robin, even when Wayne's former Robin, Dick Grayson (now Nightwing) shows up to be of assistance in the crisis. It couldn't be any gayer, yet they don't call it out.

Bruce Wayne rationalizes that he needs to recruit teens as his students/partners because "the work needs to go on long after he is gone." The inherent selfishness of this attitude is also not explored: like, why? Why, Batman, does your work need to go on after you are dead? Is the world, or even your city, actually a better place for your crusade? Seems to me that your city is as much of a dangerous shithole as it ever was, if not worse. How about laying off the kids and getting a good therapist?

I'm embarrassed at how much thought this issue provoked. I won't follow the story, of course, as Batman finds his new (girl) Robin. One wonders whether there needs to be a girl Robin when there is already a Batgirl. Clearly a better choice would be a sass-talkin' Black kid who could school Batman on talkin' all cool and shit.

Review by Timothy Hay