Treasure Chest Comics #2: Robin 116-120

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Treasure Chest Comics #2: Robin 116-120

Postby Red_Robin » Nov 18th, 2011, 12:16 pm

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Present Tense, Broken Futures

Whilst Robin 116-120 have never been collected, their story arc remains one of my all-time favourite comic arcs for several reasons, not least fantastic art from Pete Woods and superb writing from the underrated Jon Lewis.

Warning, this article contains spoilers for the afore mentioned issues.

Set inbetween the Bruce Wayne: Fugitive annd Batman: War Games storylines, the arc starts out with Tim Drake's 16th birthday. Tim's complete lack of social life is evident by the fact that his party consists of just his dad, stepmum, girlfriend Steph Brown (The Spoiler) and best friend, Ives. Part way through the party, the doorman brings up a parcel that was delivered anonymously. It's a plain white box with no lid or other way of opening it and no label or other identifying features.

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Treating it as suspicious, possibly a weapon sent by an enemy, Tim slips it to one side and flags it to Batman for investigation. They begin their investigations in the batcave and then split up. As Robin is running across rooftops, the box opens in his hand. Sensory equipment covers his face and the device plays a holographic message from Alfred - 10 years in the future.

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In the message, the future Alfred tells Robin that Gotham is in chaos. The police and military are at war with the vigilantes; fighting over who will protect the city. Needless to say, the destruction caused by such as war has been devestating to the city. Alfred says that the cause of these problems is one of Robin's allies and that they must be stopped now, in Tim's time, before they descend down a dark path. However, Alfred is inconviently killed before he can tell Robin who this person is.

Tim's not stupid. He takes some time deciding whether or not this is real or a hoax before deciding that it warrants investigation. The prime candidate for bringing Gotham to ruin is Batman himself. After everything they'd gone through leading up to the Murderer/Fugitive arc, the relationship between Bruce and Tim was a little strained. The first major desicion on this investigation is to keep batman in the dark.

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After chasing down some false real-world leads, Robin eventually decides that he is going to have to investigate his allies closely. He follows them, studying them for 10 days; concocting various scenarios in which they could become a tyrant. To his dismay, he realises that it could be any of them.

Tim determines to test his friends. He formulates a lie; a lie that would contain extreme right-wing beliefs that he'll tell to individual members of the Bat-clan. Surely, the future tyrant of Gotham would be the one that showed sympathy to the ideas and didn't tell him that he was being crazy.

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Before he can present the lie to any of his allies, he is visted by a restored future Alfred, who has now transported himself through time to speak with Robin. The implausability of the future Alfred being brought back to life and sent through time, combined with little clues that he picks up with his detective's eye and nose, tell Robin that this is a fabrication.

If you don't want the story spoiled, I'd recommend reading the arc before continuing. You can buy it online at the DC Store; links --> #116, #117, #118, #119, #120.
Spoiler: show
He pulls the mask off to reveal the present day Alfred. The box, the hologram, the entire thing had been a test laid out by Batman. A test that Robin passed through his investigations and finding the truth.


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The relationship that exists between Bruce and Tim is unlike that of any other Batman and Robin team. The dynamics of this relationship are summed up perfectly within this arc. Tim has a father and new step-mother who love him, which allows Bruce to retain a certain distance from Tim that he couldn't afford to give his previous wards. Regardless of this distance there is a bond between the two that stems from their similarities rather than any paternal relationship. Their similarities are also the cause of problems between them; namely their tendency to keep things to themselves. Several months before the events of this arc, Batman revealed Tim's civillian identity to Stephanie Brown. Whilst Robin and Spoiler had been an item for a while, Tim had not revealed his real name incase a trail could be made back to Dick or Bruce that would reveal their alter-egos. Obviously this led to some anymosity between the two of them.

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Now we get to this arc, in which Batman has decided that Tim is ready for the 'next level' of his training and sets about it without informing him. The process of investigating his friends, formulating possible temporal paradoxes and even questioning his own memories placed obvious stress on Robin and when he reveals the plot he is furious to the point that he considers quitting. It doesn't take Tim long to deal with his anger and come to the conclusion that Bruce was right to step up his training, though he went about it the wrong way. No matter what happens between them, this Batman and Robin team's relative distance allows them to put things aside in order to serve 'the mission'. This acombined with thieir similarities allow them to function in a way that the other Batman and Robin teams couldn't as true mentor and protégé.

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Pete Woods had been the regular artist on Robin from the end of No Man's Land, so he'd had plenty of time to get to grips with the character, but this arc proves a perfect swan song for his run as he hits new heights. I could count the number of artists who draw Robin at an appropraite age on both hands; many either draw him as a child or a small adult, but Woods' absolutely nails it.

I've never understood why Jon Lewis hasn't worked on more mainstream comics. His characterisation of Tim Drake is absolutely perfect, from the overabundance of caption boxes compared to speech balloons to his tendancy to keep things to himself. Infact, the entire plot of the arc plays to Tim's strengths. It forces him to over-think, to analyse, to work in solitude and, yes, even to lie to Batman.

Lewis wraps up some of his ongoing subplots here as well. Tim finds out that Steph has been living in a low-rent room after refusing to stay at he mother's house following the death of Cluemaster, her father. Steph was furious that her mother seemed to forgive his crimes simply because he was dead. Tim helps to patch things up between them and then spending time with Steph, enjoying the distraction from his investigation.

Part of what made this arc seem like such a classic is what followed it. #121 began the run of a new writer who lead us through two-and-a-quarter years of dire dialogue and crummy characterisation. Over the next few years it felt as though DC Comics had recognised that Robin had built up his skillset through Robin #120, and in Geoff Johns' Teen Titans, and they were trying to get him back to that point.

Eight years on Present Tense, Broken Futures remains one of my favourite arcs, primarily because it does what all truly great stories do and embraces the qualities of it's protagonist to the fullest; it is quintessentially Tim Drake.
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #2: Robin 116-120

Postby cutchin43 » Dec 4th, 2011, 5:27 pm

This sounds like an extremely intelligent, cerebral sort of story. I like it. I'm especially intrigued by the fact that it didn't seem like they were overloading it with action the whole time. Stories that strain relationships between characters always interest me. You guys are slowly proving to me that Robin doesn't suck, good work. :robin:
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #2: Robin 116-120

Postby DarkFlux » Dec 4th, 2011, 5:43 pm

A great read RR :)

Too bad many stories like this have probably gone unread by many due to them being uncollected.
But hey, thats what this threads here to change!
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #2: Robin 116-120

Postby BobGun » Dec 4th, 2011, 6:08 pm

That was an excellent read, RR.

Already this thread looks to be one of the best ideas on the site, and it's really interesting to see what folk will come up with, especially the not so popular titles.
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #2: Robin 116-120

Postby Croc » Dec 4th, 2011, 11:10 pm

This looks like a great story, I just wish they put it into a GN.
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #2: Robin 116-120

Postby CROD » Dec 5th, 2011, 7:38 am

Awesome read! I love this Treasure Chest!

Story sounded great and I liked the art. You would think Alfred would know better than to pull off something like that. lol
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #2: Robin 116-120

Postby Smart_Alec_Mercer » Dec 5th, 2011, 9:15 am

I think Ive read this one but Im not sure as I remember the story closing up on
Spoiler: show
Tim quiting his prerogative as Robin because he feels betrayed and all that jazz.


So there is three possible reasons for this:
1. Im remembering this wrong by mixing up multipul story arcs and/or the afformentioned plot moment being part of the very next issue.
2. Im remembering this wrong and thinking of a different Robin. (I dont think its this one because Tim is the only Robin who would do that [With the possible exception of the Batman 100 Robin {Because he was totally uncharacterised}]).
3. This has and never will happen and Im talking out of my donkey.

Can someone clarify for me please?
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #2: Robin 116-120

Postby Red_Robin » Dec 5th, 2011, 9:25 am

Smart_Alec_Mercer wrote:I think Ive read this one but Im not sure as I remember the story closing up on
Spoiler: show
Tim quiting his prerogative as Robin because he feels betrayed and all that jazz.


So there is three possible reasons for this:
1. Im remembering this wrong by mixing up multipul story arcs and/or the afformentioned plot moment being part of the very next issue.
2. Im remembering this wrong and thinking of a different Robin. (I dont think its this one because Tim is the only Robin who would do that [With the possible exception of the Batman 100 Robin {Because he was totally uncharacterised}]).
3. This has and never will happen and Im talking out of my donkey.

Can someone clarify for me please?


Tim has actually quit a few times. Around issue 50 he quit and went to Europe to finish the training he started in the first Robin mini (and killed and revived Lady Shiva) whilst he contemplated his 'career choice'. He quit in the arc that I wrote about here (for less than a day) and he quit five issues later because his dad found out that he was Robin (because Steph was going to be killed, so the new writer decided to make her Robin for three issues :roll:).
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #2: Robin 116-120

Postby Smart_Alec_Mercer » Dec 5th, 2011, 11:16 am

So its door number one. Cheers.

I didnt know about the others though. Thats interesting and it makes something that I read in the Gotham Police series in the Dead Robin arc (duh) make much more sence. They referenced a female Robin.

The dim bulb brightens a little.
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #2: Robin 116-120

Postby TFDutchman » Dec 7th, 2011, 8:49 am

Good read, RR. See its story arcs like this where I could potentially be interested in Robin, though you know me, I'd much rather take small sips of Robin while heavily drinking a Batman story, as is well known by now I have a distaste for all the Robins. But every now and then there comes a writer who is able to pull off a really well written story, no matter who the character is. Some writers are just better at writing certain characters than others. To that effect if I ever see this on a shelf I may be tempted to pick it up and see if I like it.
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #2: Robin 116-120

Postby LiAm_SOLLO- » Dec 7th, 2011, 5:53 pm

I want to read these ones but i can't find them anywhere!!!
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Thankyou Maultest!
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #2: Robin 116-120

Postby johnsyggel » Dec 7th, 2011, 10:44 pm

I don't understand the usefulness of Treasure Chest if i've not read the issues or the story arc.If it's something i've read,i'll read the Treasure Chest review as well.If not,why read it?It's full of spoilers.It's not like i'm going to read the review,read all the spoilers and then buy these issues.
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #2: Robin 116-120

Postby Red_Robin » Dec 7th, 2011, 10:53 pm

johnsyggel wrote:I don't understand the usefulness of Treasure Chest if i've not read the issues or the story arc.If it's something i've read,i'll read the Treasure Chest review as well.If not,why read it?It's full of spoilers.It's not like i'm going to read the review,read all the spoilers and then buy these issues.


Fair point, but it's unlikely that you would have tracked down and bought Robin 116-120 if I hadn't recommended it would you? I'm not saying that you will, but the idea is to recommend arcs that are worth the effort of tracking down. After a couple of months, we should have a fairly respectable list of stories that could be handed to someone who wants to get into comics. Needless to say, no-one has spoiled everything and knowing how a plot turns out can't match reading the book.
The more well known stories will obviously get more reads as people have their own views on them, but I think that we're creating a good platform to discuss underrated or forgotten classics.
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #2: Robin 116-120

Postby Andy » Dec 7th, 2011, 10:55 pm

johnsyggel wrote:I don't understand the usefulness of Treasure Chest if i've not read the issues or the story arc.If it's something i've read,i'll read the Treasure Chest review as well.If not,why read it?It's full of spoilers.It's not like i'm going to read the review,read all the spoilers and then buy these issues.


As aposed to everyone else, who thinks this is an awesome feature to the site.
Great review RR,I always enjoy your write ups.
It raises an interesting point to batmans sanity in my opinion though :oldyella:
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #2: Robin 116-120

Postby TFDutchman » Dec 8th, 2011, 7:05 am

johnsyggel wrote:I don't understand the usefulness of Treasure Chest if i've not read the issues or the story arc.If it's something i've read,i'll read the Treasure Chest review as well.If not,why read it?It's full of spoilers.It's not like i'm going to read the review,read all the spoilers and then buy these issues.


If you consider this too spoilery then thats cool, but RR did put a spoiler warning and I think thats perfectly fine. Its just how different people wanna write these. Some may be very story elaborate, others just bare bones. Just wait til my topic about Deadly/Lethal Foes of Spider-Man gets posted. I'm then following up with House of M. I give the bare bones of the plot and try to avoid spoiling any massive plot details that would spoil the story for whoever is reading. Deadly/Lethal Foes is my initial experiment as to how I want to structure and write these, House of M is going to be much better written in my opinion
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