In 2009, my friends and I decided to start a 'comic book cultural exchange program'. One of us would pick a title that we felt the other two wouldn't typically collect and the three of us would buy the book and discuss it each month. The plan has been to have a set time period of 6 months at which point the book would be re-evaluated. If it was found lacking, the next person would pick a new title for the others to try.
It has been successful so far because the four of us are somewhat different in our comic foci. One collects mostly Marvel and loves the X-Men. Another is a DC fan but focuses mostly on Batman and Green Lantern. The third was a purely Marvel guy in his youth but has become more well-rounded. And I am clearly a DC guy with a super-family passion. Those different backgrounds mean that there is always a book that could be nominated for the program.
The first book in the program was nominated by the Marvel fan. He has a side passion for Spiderwoman. The three of us collected the Bendis/Maleev comic for the 7 months that it was produced. When it was cancelled (put on hiatus?), it was time for a new title.
This is a long way to explain why I have been collecting Red Robin for the last several months. Red Robin was the title picked by the Batman fan. I will admit that I would never have picked up this title if it weren't for the 'cultural exchange program'.
Written by Fabien Nicieza and drawn by Marcus To, the book really does a nice job of showing just what a hero Tim Drake has become. Unlike many 'teen hero' books where the main theme is 'becoming a hero', it is clear that Drake is already there despite his youth. He comes across as a polished, complete, and capable hero ... not someone still learning the ropes. He reads so much like Dick Grayson when he was leading the Marv Wolfman/George Perez Teen Titans ... you could sense that he had climbed to the next level.
One thing that I think is a nice wrinkle is that Drake is coming to grips with the fact that he is his own man now. He is deciding on what he wants to do next, making goals to accomplish, and being satisfied with the identity he has made for himself.
This last issue had Red Robin entering a virtual world in the criminal 'UnterNet', a land where thoughts can become reality, a odd sort of mental safe haven for villains to enter. The place is a chaotic and dystopic mess, a place without heroes. Tim realizes he needs to change that.
And now you know why I am reviewing this issue.
Since this is a malleable world, Tim creates a group of heroes to make the UnterNet a safer place, foiling villains' desires. He creates a sort of future JLA, made up of more mature looking younger heroes. And right there in the middle is Supergirl (Superwoman?) wearing what appears to be a modified original Silver Age costume. Surrounding her are older versions of Conner, Cassie, Bart, etc.
But it's Supergirl front and center. Does that mean anything in terms of how Tim sees her?
It is such a beautiful rendition of her by Marcus To.
In the end, Tim realizes he needs to leave the world and return to reality. His friend Anarky, who is near catatonic in real life, decides to stay within this computer realm to keep it tidier.
This was a different sort of issue for this title which typically is more about street-level crimes rather than flights of fancy. Overall this is a nice title, always entertaining, as we watch Red Robin embrace his role within the DCU. Even if Red Robin gets voted out from the 'cultural exchange program', I'll still be buying.