About Chris

Chris is a writer, a tax payer, a photographer, a New Jersey resident, but most of all he likes comic books just like you.

Loki: Agent of Asgard #1-4

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Thanks to Tom Hiddleston’s awesome portrayal in the Thor movies and to Kieron Dwyer’s writing the last few years, Loki has never been this popular. How popular? He gets a new solo series called Loki: Agent of Asgard.

The premise is pretty straight-forward; in exchange for forgiving his prior sins, the All-Mother have enlisted Loki into their service to do their bidding. Through this first story arc, Loki has to retrieve the magical sword Gram which Odin had once planned on giving his adopted son should he be worthy. With his weapon retrieved, his first assignment is tracking down Sigurd the Everglorious, the previous holder of Gram, and return him to Asgardia.

Al Ewing basically crafted what you would expect from a Loki comic book.There is a good mix of humor, trickery and even the lead character pulling a fast one on the dark one himself Mephisto. The art on the book is great too.

Basically, Loki is a comic book for people who don’t want to read about super heroes, yet like super heroes. I think this is a series I’m going to revisit in a while so I can binge read.

X-Men #4

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Happy Father’s Day!

Brian Wood’s X-Men #4 seems to be a fill-in issue, as it is mostly self-contained and features art by David Lopez. There’s two really interesting stories going on that mostly show the more emotional parts of these characters.

As the cover shows, the main one features Wolverine and Jubilee, as they visit the mall where the X-Men first wound up encountering her many years ago. Through their conversation, it really shows how she has matured through the years and now that she has her son Shogo in her life, she really is an adult. You also really get a look into her relationship with Wolverine, who really treats her like his daughter. He winds up buying her childhood home so she has a place to raise the child.

The rest of the X-Men are trying to rescue a crashing airplane, which should be simple if not routine for them. However, this new group is still trying to get their team dynamics under control if they’re going to save the day. Spoil alert: they did. And quite frankly I didn’t care that much, as the scenes with Wolverine and Jubilee were so good.

Nightwing #30

I’ll admit it; sometimes I purchase comics because of the hype that is around them. And that is precisely why I bought Nightwing #30. It features the debut of the New 52 (although it feels really odd still calling it that nearly three years later) of Helena Bertinelli, better known as the Huntress.

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The issue starts out at a refugee medical camp in the Congo that has fallen under attack by a “depopulationist” group called the Fist of Cain, which is made up of some of the most random looking assassins and murderers they could hire. One is decked out in corpse paint, looking like the lovechild of a Norwegian black metal band and King Diamond. The other looks like he walked straight out of Disney World’s Adventurers Club.

One of the relief workers was Dr. Leslie Thompkins, Batman’s long-time doctor. She is conveniently rescued by Helena, who is wearing some sort of white disco suit and has a bit of a fro going on. Leslie is taken to her headquarters where she talks with a man with an unrecognizable face and might have spilled the beans about Batman being Bruce Wayne. We know this because she’s telling Batman the story, and he doesn’t look too happy. Leslie also mentions the group has a weird insignia that she keeps remembering, an eye at the center of a spider-web.

The story then shifts to the Batcave, where Batman and Nightwing are involved in some sort of weird Fight Club style conversation. Basically in the last few months Nightwing has had his secret identity revealed by the Crime Syndicate, turned into a living bomb and apparently “killed” by Lex Luthor. It has been quite the rough past few months for him. So instead of talking about why he should join the cover black-ops group Spyral, they have a fight to the death to see if he is up to the challenge. Of course he is. The book ends with Dick going off with Valerie, setting up the new Grayson series for next month.

As an issue, it nicely ties up everything from the Nightwing series, but I really could have done without the Bats/Dick fight to the death. It just seemed over the top. I think Batman really needs to learn how to communicate with people without using his fists so damn much.

Uncanny X-Men #244

Uncanny X-Men #244 is the debut of everyone’s favorite firework/firecracker thrower Jubilee into the X-Universe! The story is by Chris Claremont and Marc Silvestri.

Jubilee has been causing a ruckus at the local mall with her mutant powers (this is so late 1980s it makes me sick!), causing the local mall security to call in the M Squad. Basically they are a private mutant hunting group that you call in. Instead of being pest control for mice, they hunt super humans.

Back at the X-Men’s temporary headquarters in the Australian outback, things are getting difficult for the X-Women. Mostly they just hate it there.

So Dazzler winds up convincing them that they need a day at the shopping mall to cheer them up. Things get weird with her, Storm, Psylocke and Rogue shopping and eventually going to a male revue. You read that right. What kind of shopping mall is this?

Eventually the M-Squad finds the X-Women and there’s a bit of a light scuffle between the two groups. The M-Squad are more like the Keystone Cops, and it’s up to the mutants to save everyone in the mall! As they teleport back home, Jubilee decides to join them and runs into the portal just in time.

X-Men #1-3: Primer

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It’s ladies night!

I keep forgetting how awesome a writer Brian Wood is and the first three issues of X-Men are just another example.

This volume of X-Men focuses mainly on the female characters in the X-Universe which is a first. Quite frankly, it’s about time.

The story starts with Jubilee showing up at the X-Mansion with her baby (well I should say adopted baby that she found) Shogo because the sentient bacteria creature named John Sublime has been stalking them. I thought this was a new character, but it turns out that he’s been around since the early 1990s.

After being stopped by an X-Men squad of Psylocke, Storm, Rogue, Rachel Summers and Shadowcat, Sublime reveals why he was stalking Jubilee and Shogo. It turns out his evil sister Arkea–who is also an evil bacteria organism herself–was travelling around on Shogo’s body. Things get worse when Arkea then infects the unconscious body of Omega Sentinel and the X-Men have to find a way to stop Arkea without using lethal force.

Wood just hits this one out of the park; everyone in this book gets equal story time. Now I know I’m biased because I like all these characters, but everyone comes across looking really important. He even managed to make Sublime and Arkea interesting.

On the art side, Olivier Coipel is no slouch. What a great way to start a new series.

Hip Hop Family Tree Free Comic Book Day 2014

hip hop family treeThe whole purpose of Free Comic Book Day is for publishers to get new readers to pick up their books by offering a sample. Artist/writer Ed Piskor and his publisher Fantagraphics hit one out of the park with the Hip Hop Family Tree Two-In-One sampler.

It pulls material from the first volume that shows how characters from comics and rap music are similar. I didn’t even know this was a project and I want it now. Immediately.

It’s well written, the art is fantastic and Hip Hop Family Tree also happens to be hilarious. Not to mention the coloring and production effects that make this look completely vintage. I think I’m in love.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #31

ImageThis is a series that I’ve been picking up every now and then. To be honest, I’m not up to date with the book, but the fact that it has the lead characters fighting with Lobo gave issue #31 the potential to be awesome in at least my mind.

We’re joined in progress on some alien space station and Lobo is standing victorious. He has defeated the Outlaws and is ready to unleash some sort of over the topic, only-in-comics type of weapon that will turn the planet earth into a black hole.

Why?

Lobo goes on a rant about how destroying the planet would be great for his business, especially since there is some sort of Rann/Thangar war brewing. Luckily for everyone on the planet, Arsenal brings his A-game, breaks Lobo’s war machine and sends him to the other side of the galaxy. It’s back home for the Outlaws.

Who cares what is up with them, but the ending teases the long-awaited bad-ass Lobo versus the New 52 Lobo. Hot damn.

Days Of Future Present

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If yesterday’s post was too straight forward, today’s will be a little more complicated. “Days Of Future Past” brought on the super epic “Days of Future Present” and ties together the X-books of the time with the Fantastic Four. This ran through four annuals (Uncanny x-Men, X-Factor, Fantastic Four and New Mutants) in the summer of 1990. And it all pivots around Franklin Richards.

An older, adult Franklin from the alternate future where “Days of Future Past” happened travels back in time to the then-current day Marvel Universe, which causes all kinds of craziness with the Fantastic Four and the young, child Franklin. It also causes problems with Rachel Summers, who was originally from the same timeline as adult Franklin where they were romantically involved with each other  and she assumed he was dead. It only gets more confusing as it is revealed that when Rachel traveled back in time, an evil Sentinel/cyborg hybrid called Ahab had followed her, planning on not only killing her but several mutants and super humans who would become in the future. It’s a lot like Terminator 2: Judgement Day, only coming out the summer later.

And as this is going on, both Franklins are having trouble controlling their mutant ability to war reality, which makes things all the more difficult.

The story is a little long at times, but the writing team of Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson and Chris Claremont manage to make it cohesive enough to be enjoyable. But then again, during this time any book that was associated with the three of them was great.

On the art side of things Jackson Guide, Jon Bodganove and Art Adams did a great job. The three of them have unique and timeless styles, and nothing felt out of date save for some of the fashion choices.

Main story aside, there are some other cool moments. We are introduced to Gambit for the first time, who debuts helping Storm (who has been turned back into a teenager) break into the X-Mansion. There is also the first time that Jean Grey meets Rachel, her possible daughter from an alternate future. That must have been awkward.

Speaking of awkward, we also get scenes (like the one pictured) that have both Cable as an adult and as a child in baby Nathan. That’s possible, since Nathan gets sent to the future to be raised, only to come back as Cable. But at the same time I wonder if that aspect of the character’s life was planned out yet.

The Uncanny X-Men #141-142: Days of Future Past

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One of the most iconic comic covers of all time.

Who knew that a two-issue story arc that ran in The Uncanny X-Men  #141-142 would be such a profound moment in the series.  Before we talk about the movie that comes out on Friday, let’s talk about the story that started it all.

“Days Of Future Past” is fairly straightforward. In the year 2013 (doesn’t that seem like yesterday?), it completely sucks for man and mutant alike. The robotic Sentinels that were deployed to stop mutants (as a result of the assassination of super mutant-hater Robert Kelly) have taken it one step further, turning their robotic eyes to super powered humans alike.

Things are getting rough and it seems like humanity is approaching a nuclear fallout. What’s left of the X-Men have a plan to go back in time to prevent this future, by finding a way for the Kitty Pryde of 2013 to communicate with the younger version of her in 1980 to prevent Kelly’s assassination at the hands of Mystique’s latest group of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

The fall out of this story leaves a huge impact on the X-books for years to come. It introduces Rachel Summers (Cyclops and Jean Grey’s daughter from the future), as an extremely powerful telepath who was responsible for connecting the Kitty’s of the future and path. She later becomes a very important character in her own right.

It also introduces a plot point that sticks through future X-Men stories, as they are now aware of there being a “worst case scenario” that someday there will be a Mutant Registration Act that leads to the attempt at exterminating the mutant population of the world.

And this is purely conjecture at my point, but it really establishes Kitty Pryde as being one of the top level characters in the X-Pantheon. Before, she was just kind of a sidekick or follower of the rest of the team. But from this point forward she really came into her own and became a focal character.

At the very least, it gives us that awesome John Byrne cover of Uncanny X-Men  #141 which has been parodied and influenced thousands of other comic book covers over the years. Maybe not tou

Ben Affleck’s Batman Suit

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I might as well join the bandwagon and put in my two cents about the new Ben Affleck/Batman suit; everyone else seems to be.

I have to say that I like it.

It reminds me a lot of the way that Jim Lee or Frank Miller would draw the character; it looks right out of the duo’s All Star Batman from a few years back. The suit looks right to me, much more than the plate armor that the character was sporting in the Christopher Nolan trilogy.

I think even Butters would agree; this is going to be awesome.

Aquaman Volume 1: The Trench

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I think I’m the only person in the world who finds Geoff Johns’ writing to be very hit or miss. I know I’m not the only person in the world who thinks that Aquaman can be pretty lame as a character. That said, when I picked up Aquaman Volume 1: The Trench I had really low expectations. What I wound up reading was a really fun story pitting Aquaman against an army of aquatic subterranean creatures.

The main story featured in this collection is from Aquaman #1-4, with the cannibalistic deep-sea dwellers called the Trench invading the surface world. It’s up to Aquaman and his wife Mera to stop this invasion. Think of Night Of The Living Dead meets The Abyss, except with a lot more humor worked in. Eventually it’s revealed that the reason that the Trench are invading the surface world is that they are facing extinction and trying to stop it, but at the expense of the surface world. Eventually Aquaman saves mankind (and probably the rest of the residents of the ocean as well) by trapping the Trench. And along the way he rescues a Golden Retriever who winds up being named Aquadog.

The other two stories in this collection feature Aquaman stranded in a desert and a story that tells more about Mera’s origin as an Atlantean assassin. These are perfectly acceptable, but the main story line is what makes the collection. It’s certainly sold me on the series; I have the next two volumes waiting for me at the library.

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain_America_The_Winter_SoldierHere’s a better late then never review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I really liked. That, and this movie owes a lot of credit to Ed Brubaker, who wrote the original Winter Soldier storyline that serves as the backbone of this film.

There’s a bit of a mystery element to the movie, with the evil organization Hydra (which was last seen in Captain America) having slowly integrated itself into the SHIELD organization since it was assumed to have been disbanded after World War II. Now using SHIELD’s resources, Hydra has completely rebuilt itself and looks to take over the world.

It’s a good thing that Cap, Black Widow, Nick Fury (who fakes his own death) and a newly-found ally in the Falcon are here to stop Hydra’s latest attempt at taking over the world. The only thing is that SHIELD/Hydra send the Winter Soldier (Bucky from the first movie, who has been turned into a cold-blooded cyborg mercenary) to stop them. And clearly the good guys win, since it is a super hero movie.

Winter Soldier is filled with a lot of suspense and action, pretty much everything you would want and expect in a Captain America movie. Some of the back story about how Hydra has worked in the shadows felt like a stretch, but it generally didn’t hurt the movie that much. Plus, it brought us the Arnim Zola as an old computer terminal center scenes.

Chris Evans is a great Captain America, especially the scenes where he is shown as being a man out of time who has to carry a notebook to write down all the things he has missed out on. I can’t wait to see the following Cap films that this movie sets up: the next Avengers film and the following Captain america movie. This movie gets a big thumbs up and I might have enjoyed it more than Thor: Dark World.

In Tribute Of Dick Ayers

Dr. Doom by Dick Ayers

Bleeding Cool (via Roy Thomas) reported that the 1950s/1960s Jack Kirby-inker Dick Ayers and longtime Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos penciller passed away on May 4, shortly before what would have been his ninetieth birthday. I was fortunate enough to get the above sketch from him at the 2006 Baltimore Comic Book Show, which was an adventure all in it self.

I was in line waiting to get a sketch, and I really wanted to get one of Nick Fury. But when I was next in line, I told Dick that I wanted a sketch of Hawkeye. I felt just like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, ruining my moment with Santa Claus.

There was a brief pause.

Dick looked up at me from the table and said the following: “You do know that’s a difficult costume to draw.”

There was another awkward pause. Now I’m feeling really embarrassed.

But before I could say something, Dick said “How bout I draw Doctor Doom instead?” I nodded my head just like a confused little kid would. I then spent the next twenty to thirty minutes talking with him about what it was like working for Marvel in his day and he answered every question, even telling me a few interesting stories about Jack Kirby!

And that’s how I wound up having an awkward exchange with a comics legend (that turned itself around) and how he drew Doctor Doom for me. Thanks for the memories, Dick!

 

Moon Knight #1-15

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Just like last time, the Marvel Unlimited subscription has put me on a binge read Charlie Huston’s run on Moon Knight was bloody fun. Over the last year or so, I’ve really started paying attention to the character, thanks to cheap back issue sets and paperbacks.

Moon Knight really feels like it flew under the radar at Marvel. Huston is best known for being a crime novelist, and at the time Moon Knight was a largely forgotten character in the Marvel pantheon. The 2006-2007 series was a lot of dark fun, so why should you read it?

  • Gore factor. Now usually I don’t go for that sort of thing. But somehow Huston’s script and the way that David Finch illustrated it is just so gross, creepy and welcoming at the same time. I know I’ve said it before, but Finch really reminds me of Todd McFarlane with how he draws. And his art is so on in this series.
  • Khonshu. If you remember, the premise of Moon Knight is that he’s an avatar of the Egyptian god Khonshu and that by worshiping this god (or just generally poor mental health) he has been slowly driving him nuts. Khonshu has taken the form of the late super villain the Bushman, whom Moon Knight literally defaced and killed. This vision appears, tormenting the hero from the side.
  • Call backs. I don’t know if Huston was a fan of the original Moon Knight series but he certainly references a lot of the older comics, even down to the supporting characters. His former pilot Frenchie (who reveals that he has put up with Moon Knight’s crap for so long only because he had a crush on the masked vigilante), love interest Marlene and his supporting cast are all there. He even finds himself feuding with the current incarnation of the villainous the Committee and is faced to fight his former sidekick Midnight (now a villain) to the death.
  • The second six issues. The main part of this arc is Moon Knight dealing with Midnight, but the subplot involves both Iron Man and Captain America trying to recruit him to their respective sides during the Civil War period. Moon Knight has his own views which happen to not go along with each side and he finds a way to express them clearly.
  • It feels like an indie super hero book. This doesn’t feel like anything Marvel would put out. It’s just really different.

So there you have it. Read Moon Knight immediately. It’s dark, brooding and gory, but still a light and fun (if that’s possible with a hero that’s cutting up people) read. It certainly makes me want to see more super hero stuff written by Huston.

 

Immortal Iron Fist #1-27

immortalironfistYou know what I like doing? I like hording runs of complete (or near complete) series and then binge read them, kind of like how someone will burn through a whole season of something on Netflix. With Marvel Unlimited, I was able to binge read the entire Immortal Iron Fist series.

I must admit that I don’t necessarily know everything about the character. But in this short series, which ran roughly two and a half years, I was able to jump right in at full speed.

There is a lot that happens in this series, ranging from Daniel Rand having to literally fight off corporate raiders that are part Hydra, to fighting with the other immortal weapons in a tournament of celestial proportions, to finally even going to hell. All the while, there are side bars chronicling the life and death of Orson Randall (the previous Iron Fist), Daniel’s father Wendell taking the Rand family on an expedition to find K’un-L’un, and single issue stories about the various other people to wield the Iron Fist. We even explore Daniel’s personal life, whether it be how he runs his business or his relationship with Misty Knight.

The resulting series works so well, whether it be written by the series’ original team of Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, to the later issues by Duane Swierczynski. It is a real testament to his abilities as a writer, as he keeps the tone and pace set by Brubaker and Fraction. On the art side, the series went back and forth from David Aja and Travel Foreman seamlessly. The resulting series was just great.

Red Lanterns #27

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I don’t know half of what’s happened leading up to this but it’s got a cover that makes me happy. As a long-time fan of the JLI era, getting to see Guy Gardner and Ice getting into some mischief is enough for me.

Red Lanterns #27 starts on some planet that Guy and the rest of the Red Lanterns liberated. He’s also had a bit of a change in appearance from the cover, as he now sports a mustache that Burt Reynolds would be jealous of.

The main story features Guy trying to win his ex-girlfriend Ice back, who lives in an icy cabin in the woods of Norway. It’s just like the movie Frozen, except a million times cooler. They broke up because he’s an angry, miserable son-of-a-gun but he’s much better now.

The subplot has two teams of the Red Lanterns out on patrol, two looking for the missing ring of the late-RL Ratchet, and the other two go sight-seeing around the planet Earth. Unfortunately they make fun of Guy’s hometown Baltimore, which also happens to be one of my favorite places.

Perhaps I’ll follow this series more…

Daredevil #1

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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and I’m rereading one of my  Valentine’s Day presents from last year: Essential Dardevil. What makes this so much fun for me is the artwork from Bill Everett. Over the years he has become one of my favorite pencilers and the black and white format really makes his art pop so much.

On the story side, Stan Lee presents a typical origin from this time. We start off with a brief flashback before going back and presenting Daredevil’s history. His origin is very straight forward; Matt Murdock was raised by his boxer single dad. Eventually Matt winds up losing his vision albeit in a noble fashion, and his dad’s life is ended by an evil boxing promoter–appropriately named the Fixer. Matt winds up training to confront the Fixer and winds up becoming the super hero that we know and love called Daredevil.

The funny part of this story is the fact that there’s a blind guy sewing together the costume, developing a spring loaded grappling hook weapon and becoming a master gymnast/fighter. Matt became much more talented once he lost his vision. The other is that Matt’s best friend, co-lawyer Foggy Nelson and their secretary Karen Page both notice that he’s been disappearing frequently. But they never confronted him once during the issue.

Daredevil #1 really wasn’t the best written first appearance of a character especially when you compare it to some of the other stuff Marvel was putting out at the time. But what makes this great, again, is Everett’s artwork. It’s really strong.

John Romita Jr’s Superman May Be The Coolest Thing Ever

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Superman just became awesome again.

I will admit that I’ve grown away from Superman as a character. At one point he was definitely one of my favorites; I loved the whole Dan Jurgens/1990s era of the character when they were putting out four tightly knit Superbooks a month. But over the years, I wound up losing interest, especially all of the undoing of the John Byrne post-Crisis aspects and replacing them with a more Geoff Johns/Richard Donner theme.

The Superman in the New 52 books has peaked my interest on and off, mostly due to Jurgens’ involvement on the title. Fast forward to the recent announcement that there was going to be a new Superman series with Geoff Johns at the helm and I wasn’t that excited. But with them announcing that John Romita Jr. would be drawing Supes with Klaus Janson on the inking side, suddenly this is something I want to read.

This is the first DC work that JRjr has done and having it be on one of their–if not the–highest profile characters certainly is exciting. Color me optimistic.

Batman: Death Of The Family

 

death_of_the_familyThanks to my friendly local public library, I’ve been on a bit of a New 52 kick. Scott Snyder’s Batman: Death Of The Family is a suspenseful collection that pits the Dark Knight against his most sadistic foe–the Joker.

The story is simple; the Joker has returned to Gotham City and is recreating some of his greatest most horrific encounters with Batman. Not only that, but he’s attempting to kill of Batman’s allies. Batman kind of expects that he would go after Batgirl, Red Hood and even Red Robin. But things get taken to another level when the Joker sets his sights on Bruce Wayne’s long-suffering butler Alfred. It’s up to Batman to stop the Joker and save his extended Batfamily.

The conclusion of the story isn’t the most satisfying. One of the plot points is that the Joker has somehow figured out the connection between Batman and Bruce Wayne, to the extent that he knew that a way to get to Batman would be by attacking Alfred and how to access the Batcave (which is presumably still connected to Wayne Manor). This was explained in a flashback at the story with Batman as Bruce Wayne confronting the Joker at the Arkham Asylum over a Joker card that was mysteriously found in the Batcave. That in turn gives away everyone else’s identity. But at the end of the story, it was pretty much stated that the Joker didn’t know any of this information. That part I’m still not clear on.

The other interesting reveal was that Batman does indeed know who the Joker was before be became a sociopath. They didn’t reveal it but I would assume that it would mean that he is connected to some of the more prominent characters in the Bat universe.

Death Of The Family did get my attention and I did enjoy it. I really wish that the big reveals at the end were more concrete and not just spring boards for future stories. If you have any thoughts, please comment because I’m still trying to put it all together.

Teen Titans #0

ImageI know it’s been a while; I’ve been spending more time reading comics than blogging about them. Well, that and being increasingly busy in my professional life. So here’s a quick one so I can get back on track.

Teen Titans #0 gives us the backstory of the New 52-ized Tim Drake. Previously Tim was the son of two Bruce Wayne-level wealthy parents, and over the years he had several encounters with both Bruce and Dick Grayson. He eventually figures out their secret identities, and after the death of his mother and crippling of his father Tim becomes the third Robin to avenge his family’s losses.

Writer Scott Lobdell takes the origin in a different direction. He’s a superstar high school gymnast and general smartypants who tries to figure out–unsuccessfully–who the Batman is. To get the Dark Knight’s attention, he hacks the Penguin’s bank account.

That was a surefire way to get everyone attention, with Batman having to save them. As a result, his parents have been put into the witness protection program and have been relocated somewhere in the country and he now has to take the identity of Tim Drake, an adopted ward of Bruce Wayne. At that point Bruce finally reveals that he’s Batman and Tim dons the roll of Red Robin.

The one theme that is hammered into this issue was the relationship between Tim and his parents. They were immensely proud of him and everything that he had been able to accomplish. However, he wound up giving that all away in his quest to unmask Batman. Not only is he isn’t living with them and with extremely limited contact, but they will never know about his true greatest accomplishment: being a super hero.

It’s interesting all around and I’m sure Lobdell is planning on revisiting his parents at some point.