For the first time since Chuck Dixon wrote his adventures, Tim Drake has a true architect paving his way in the DC Universe. Many writers have guided him through the years, but it James Tynion IV has spent the Rebirth era rebuilding the young hero. His return to the DC Universe in Detective Comics “A Lonely Place of Living” storyline establishes this as the perfect time to give Red Robin his own ongoing series.
Say what you will about who you believe is the best Robin (and everyone is entitled to their favorite), but from the moment he was introduced, Tim Drake has been the ultimate Robin. Dick Grayson is the acrobat, Jason Todd the violent vigilante, and Damian Wayne the master assassin. From the very beginning, Tim was established as the smart Robin. And what is Batman, really, without his brain?
Tim is the master detective, the computer genius, and the one to deduce Batman's secret identity all on his own. Of all the Robins, he was the only one who took on the sidekick mantle without personal tragedy informing his decision. In time, he came to be the person most qualified to step into the cape and cowl as the next Batman. The thing is, he's never wanted to actually be Batman; he just wanted to save the Dark Knight from his own, well, darkness.
After nearly 20 years as the Golden Child of Gotham, Damian Wayne arrived on the scene and took what was Tim’s. While most everyone in the Bat-family graduated following the death of Bruce Wayne, Tim Drake made a lateral move to Red Robin while the new Dynamic Duo of Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne took the spotlight. For whatever reason, Tim Drake ended up on the outskirts of the DC Universe.
He remained nearly inconsequential during the entire New 52, relegated to the Teen Titans and almost completely ignored in the Batman universe. Tim was essentially rendered obsolete by the simple fact that there were too many Robins. It’s why his apparent “death” in the opening salvo of Rebirth was so believable, and so necessary. He needed a reset.
Tim Drake's New Beginning, Cut Short
When Tynion took over Detective Comics, he immediately got to work revitalizing Tim. He reestablished him as a computer genius and introduced the idea that he was a technical maestro, destined to do something more for the world than fight crime on the streets. Tim helped form and lead the Gotham Knights team and designed The Belfry, their high-tech headquarters in the middle of Gotham City. The boy who once nearly managed to clone a Kryptonian was now established as the visionary of the DC Universe.
Just as Tim’s star was burning brightest, DC teased the extinguishing of it with his fake-out death. While we knew from the start it wasn’t real, it effectively took him off the board for an entire year. However, that time with no Tim actually turned out to be a good thing, because it put him directly onto a grander scale when he reappeared in “A Lonely Place of Living.”
His abduction tied directly into the “Oz Effect” storyline in Action Comics, as well as the greater Rebirth story related to Dr. Manhattan and Doomsday Clock. It gave Tim a chance to stand on his own, apart from Batman's pointy-eared shadow. It gave readers a chance to see just how much the Gotham Knights needed Tim to be their guiding light. We also saw how his supporting cast reacted to his absence, allowing something to grow out of the lack of it.
Setting the Stage for Red Robin
Now that he's returned to the DC Universe, Tynion has established a familiar supporting cast for Tim. At its core is his on-and-off-again girlfriend Stephanie Brown, aka Spoiler, who may be over this whole crimefighting thing -- especially if it means having to listen to Batman. The two had previously planned to retire, but with Red Robin's reinvigorated interest in crime fighting, conflict is brewing. This relationship is a long and storied one, and could serve as the bedrock for a new ongoing series.
The reintroduction of key Tim Drake villains Anarky and Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong, aka The General, gives the theoretical book some early storylines to build on. It's also clear that Tim's encounter with the Batman of the Future is only the beginning. He still doesn’t want to be Batman, but if there is no other way around it, he’s going to figure out a way through it.
It's also worth mentioning that the future Batman hinted at another life for Tim Drake, one where all his friends still exist. Over the years, Tim has grown with Conner Kent, Cassie Sandsmark and Bart Allen. None of these longtime friends currently exist in Rebirth's continuity, so their mention can’t be a simple throwaway line.
Tim Drake's relationship is about to get a lot more complicated; he has long lost friends to find, and plans to fight the future against his Batman legacy. There has never been a greater need for a Red Robin ongoing series, one which can establish Tim Drake's true legacy.