DETECTIVE COMICS #968
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Alvaro Martinez, Raul Fernandez, and Tomeu Morey
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: November 8, 2017
Full disclosure: I’ve never really cared for Tim Drake.
Compared to the dramatic lives and losses of other superheroes, Tim’s rise to Robinhood always felt like a wish-fulfillment fantasy pulled straight from the early days of fanfiction. Every time I try to delve into his various comic adventures, especially from the recent DC reboots, more often than not I find the stories pretty lackluster and his personality similar to an insufferable, know-it-all teenager from the early 2000s.
Like, if you told me it’s canon for Tim Drake to listen to Cute is What We Aim For and haunt reddit just to be an asshole gatekeeper to new comic book fans, I’d believe you. And I say that as someone who was a little know-it-all asshole as a teenager, like most of us were! Still, I’ve totally wanted to punch Tim Drake in the face for the same behavior until fairly recently.
I was admittedly indifferent to his “death” last year, and I was definitely not feeling the announcement of his Rebirth return in “A Lonely Place of Living” at first. But as the four-issue storyline now comes to an end in #968, I find myself feeling another emotion entirely: disappointment. Not because the storyline is bad, but because I don’t actually want it to end.
Trust Nobody, Not Even Yourself
These days, death ain’t nothing but a vacation for the Bat family. While Tim Drake seemed to have perished in a drone strike ordered by Batwoman’s father, he was in fact transported to a temporal prison owned by Superman’s Kryptonian father, Jor-El.
Wait, you may wonder, wasn’t Krypton destroyed and Superman’s family brutally-? Let me stop you there. It’s a long story that will be integrated into DC’s upcoming Doomsday Clock event this year. The important thing to know right now is that Jor-El is a powerful being who has been messing with various events in the DC timeline. As any sci-fi fan – or anyone who mocks CW’s The Flash – knows, messing with the timeline can cause some serious problems. Loved ones disappear from your life and you’ll never know they existed, you don’t get accepted into your dream college like you should have been, and you also might become a fascist Batman in the future.
At least, that’s what happened to Tim Drake. Because of Jor-El’s meddling, two timelines now exist for Tim, and in one he becomes the Batman of his nightmares. Current Tim meets his alternate future self in this temporal prison, and the thought of ending up like him is terrifying.
Meanwhile, Future Tim is thrilled by the idea that his evil future can be avoided. And all he apparently needs to do is kill Batwoman in order to prevent Current Tim from becoming Batman… which absolutely no one is thrilled with. So, Future Tim fights against the entire Bat family, the Gotham Knights (name still pending for Tim’s latest superhero team), and he even hijacks the entire world’s computer systems in order to make his crazy scheme work. But in the end, Current Tim beats his alternate adult self and sends him back to his own timeline.
As the finale to “A Lonely Place of Living,” #968 is an interesting thematic conclusion to a surprisingly strong story arc. Throughout this mini-event, I’ve been impressed by the creative team’s dedicated homage to Tim Drake’s origin story and early Robin adventures. Back in #965, Tim’s attempt to become Robin after the death of Jason Todd is rehashed in all its sepia tone glory by the book’s art team. Even the covers in this event serve as clever little reimaginings of classic Robin story covers, updated with the current Tim and his modern superhero allies. It’s a fun trip back into nostalgia, and the slight shift in artwork between the past and current timelines is just a taste of the art team’s mesmerizing work in these issues.
At the same time, consider “A Lonely Place of Living” to be the older, wiser inverse of Tim’s classic introduction in “A Lonely Place of Dying.” Speficially, Tynion uses this new mini-event to revisit the old backstory’s themes of hope and selfless sacrifice. Future Tim resents being a superhero due to the loss of the normal life he could have enjoyed, especially since the future is still filled with senseless crime and violence. In the face of continued social strife, he believes his sacrifices to be useless and the Batman mantle a burden.
But Current Tim has not given up hope. He still believes in the promise of a better future, one where anyone can stand up for what’s right and find others who are inspired by the same mission. That promise is what the role of Batman and Robin meant to him as a kid, and the reason he offered his services as Robin in the first place. It’s a common theme in these “bad future” types of stories, but Tynion succeeds in his approach by directly using Tim’s inspiring run as Robin as a compelling counterpoint to Future Tim’s nihilism. Even readers unfamiliar with Tim’s backstory can’t help but find his commitment to his childhood promise emotionally satisfying.
Yet what I found particularly interesting was the ending. It seems like Tim has convinced his alternate future self that their path to Batman has been for the greater good and, thus, is a good thing. Future Tim is silently crying, so obviously he’s seen the error of his ways, right? Wrong. Before he goes back to his own timeline, he tells Current Tim that all his efforts are for naught. The future is going to destroy him, and it will happen sooner than he realizes.
He disappears right after this declaration. The Gotham Knights and the Bat family are relieved by his departure and want to know if Tim’s alright, but he doesn’t respond. He just looks out on the city he has now reaffirmed that he will protect, contemplating Future Tim’s warning.
This ending is bittersweet, and it’s telling that Tynion doesn’t have Future Tim agree with Current Tim. It really forces readers to wonder if Current Tim is doing the right thing by continuing to be a superhero, and whether his path is sustainable. It also opens up so many exciting future storylines in Detective Comics, such as Tim’s relationships with Batwoman, Batman and the family, and Stephanie Brown; his education goals; and the non-superhero related ways he may try to take back control of his life.
Final verdict on #968? It is 4.5 Bats out of 5 for me. I wish we saw more of Future Tim in action and quiet contemplation of the past he left behind, but he served as a formidable springboard from which to examine Current Tim in DC canon. #968 is a near perfect Rebirth introduction to Tim Drake for old and new comic fans alike, and I can’t wait to read more. Seriously, here I am excited for more Tim Drake stories. It’s an early Christmas miracle.