Today, Shelby and (guest writer) Zach Kastner are discussing Teen Titans 0, originally released September 27th, 2012. Teen Titans 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.
Shelby: We’ve all done dumb things to try to impress someone. Whether it’s a boss, friend, or member of whatever sex you prefer, everyone has at one point thrown common sense out the window and acted like an ass to earn their favor. Usually, though, the average cry for attention doesn’t involve stealing millions of dollars from a mob boss psychopath to simultaneously make your parents proud and to get a masked vigilante to take notice. Tim Drake is obviously far from average.
Tim has it all; he’s a rock-star gymnast, the smartest kid ever, and has 2 loving and supportive parents. What he doesn’t have is a pair of tights and a domino mask. He noticed Batman looking glum after Robin (Jason Todd) disappeared from the scene. Putting 2 and 2 together, he decides Batman needs a new sidekick, and that he should be that sidekick. Batman is still pretty bummed after losing Jason, however, and decides he’s not ready to be responsible for the life of another teen. He lures Tim to a meeting with a trail of identity bread-crumbs, and tells him to back off and enjoy the fact that he’s got both of his parents. Tim doesn’t take no for an answer, so he decides the next best step is to steal millions of dollars from the Cobblepots. Batman gets to his house just in time to save him and his parents from being gunned down by Penguin’s goons. Tim’s parents go into hiding and ask Batman to keep an eye on Tim; naturally, Tim ends up as Red Robin.
This issue doesn’t quite sit right with me. It’s true, of all the members of the Teen Titans, Tim Drake is probably the one I know the best, and that’s not saying a lot. Because he’s the only one I know anything about, I was happy to see Scott Lobdell focus on Tim’s transformation into Red Robin; the problem is, it doesn’t make a ton of sense. Tim’s parents assigned him to Batman’s custody. Not Bruce Wayne, not Alfred: the masked vigilante who’s identity they don’t even know. The same masked man who spends his nights fighting the most horrifying people Gotham can produce. I guess if anyone is going to keep their son safe from the Penguin, it would be his nemesis, but it still seems like a pretty uninformed decision. What do you think they thought a few months later when they saw a new Robin in town? “Gee, that kid is a great gymnast and he looks in no way familiar?”
I also wasn’t totally sold on sad-sack Batman. Now, hear me out before you all start hollering about the impact Jason’s death had on Bruce. There is no doubt the loss of Jason shook Bruce to his core. There’s a lot of potential for compelling character development in that situation; I just don’t feel that Lobdell put that much thought into the Batman of this issue. Instead of mourning, he just strikes me as whiny. You can argue that this isn’t a Batman title, we aren’t here to learn more about how he dealt with Jason’s death; that would be a fair point, if Lobdell hadn’t chosen him as the narrator. We’re seeing the story through Batman’s eyes, and it’s an angsty, constantly scowling Batman that I just can’t get behind.
I didn’t think the issue was all bad, though. Tyler Kirkham’s pencils of Tim were really nice: very fluid and dynamic. Fitting for some kind of kid genius gymnast. I was especially struck by the scene in the police station, when the authorities are trying to figure out what to do with Tim.
A young man, sitting in a police station in a suit and tie, to say good-bye to his parents? Remind you of anyone? The whole issue, Bruce is reminding us how Tim is different from Jason, Dick, even himself. Tim has both his parents; he has so much more to lose. Just like Batman and the other Robins before him, Tim has to learn it the hard way. Here, in the police station, he loses his family; sadly, maybe that’s what you need to do if you want to work for the Bat.
Zach, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe you’ve been reading this title before now? How does this issue work as an origin for Red Robin, and what do you think of a Red Robin origin for the Teen Titans 0 issue?
Zach: Shelby, in my eyes, this should have been an issue from the point of Tim and about Tim with none of the Bat-narrative. Bruce lost Jason — we can see how that drastically affects his mentalities in other Batman stories. These stories can be considered in-canon while others cannot, but either way there is one logical and firm agreement: Bruce closes himself off EVEN MORE than a guy who lurks in a cave already does.
What I’m getting at here is, your whiny Batman observation is valid. He should hardly speak. Bruce is a man who hardly leaves his head in the first place and having him spell out every single thing he thinks or every action he does hinders the storytelling. Yet, this is the way of Lobdell that I’ve come to realize.
You are correct; I’ve kept up with Teen Titans for the most part. I had to step off after the Culling since it just didn’t jive with me. I gave it another chance with the more recent “Wonder Girl’s armor” plot line but quickly realized my discontent. Because I trust Scott Snyder’s vision and his plotting, I’ll probably be coming back to the book for Death of the Family. Lobdell working from Snyder’s guidelines was successful in Red Hood and I shall try again. In essence, that’s just what I’m doing when I read this series. I want to like the characters and the story, so badly. I give them chance after chance but it really ends up falling flat, similarly to what happened here.
I had to reflect on this issue as a Tim Drake story. The character is very foreign now. The issue even hints that his name isn’t even Tim Drake until the last page. The key elements of his former incarnation have been contorted to fit into the New 52 and in doing so, Tim doesn’t feel like Tim. He is smart but… now isn’t the boy who discovered Batman, which is critical. He is the second best detective on Earth. Batman simply led him astray. Batman, who didn’t want another partner in the first place. They are “opposite numbers” as Bruce puts it. No subtlty here.
Can I just focus on that? Batman didn’t even want Tim. Tim wanted to join but couldn’t find Bruce. You know who orchestrated EVERYTHING: Alfred. Which is so odd. Alfred was the one coaxing Bruce to the gymnast competitions to scout Tim. Alfred said “whatever” to Batman’s refusal to work with Tim because he didn’t want to bring harm to the boy’s family. “Against [Batman’s] better judgment Alfred convinced [him] to meet Tim at the Aviary” So Alfred got under Bruce’s skin there too! Alfred was the first to bring out Jason’s Robin outfit (which has ALWAYS remained in the glass display). What is this mastermind Alfred thing? I think that is the primary sour milk of this issue.
I won’t even get into how parents contacting Batman to watch their kid is probably the worst idea on the planet. But you know what I did find? A perfect quote.
I wanted to like this book, so badly. Lobdell’s had snappy dialogue in past Teen Titans issues and I love Red Hood but—to me—this was another stumble this series has taken. Subtlety escapes Lobdell and leaves me just wanting more substance from this title. As an origin for Red Robin, this is convoluted. As an origin for Tim Drake, this is almost like a new character. The thing is, I will keep trying to like this book.
Zach Kastner is a full-time college student and full-time comic reader. He is a screenwriter-in-the-making and also an art man. To get a peak inside his brain, follow him on Twitter @zachkastner
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?