cover image Unmasked!


Bill Willingham. DC Comics, $12.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-1-4012-0235-4

Although penned by Eisner-winning writer Willingham, this is an unremarkable, generic teen adventure. Robin is one of DC's longest-continuing characters, but he's survived as Batman's light-hearted juvenile cohort rather than as an interesting individual. Recent attempts to reinvent the role have involved passing the Robin costume to different young people, demonstrating that the job is so dangerous that not everyone can survive it. This book contains the first part of a story arc in which Tim Drake tries to fill the role of Robin while maintaining his life as a high school student, dutiful son and so on. He's straining for bigger challenges than Batman will let him tackle, attracted to a girl in his school (although he's in a relationship with masked crimefighter Spoiler) and hiding his secret identity from his parents. It's pretty standard stuff, not helped by the bland, vaguely manga-influenced artwork. Moreover, in attempting to establish Tim as a conflicted young adult, Willingham overdoes the angst. It's difficult, for example, to understand how disturbed Tim is when he imagines he's killed a vicious psychopath who later shows up as the occult supervillain Johnny Warlock. Adding more extreme displays of personality isn't the same as making Robin feel like a real person.