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New 52 Red Robin

DC Direct
by yo go re

DC's "New 52" is more good than bad, but there is still some bad.

Trained by the best, natural-born leader Red Robin guides his comrades in opposing any threat.

Tim Drake was the best Robin. Dick was given the job and Jason pretty much had it thrust upon him, but Tim is the only one who earned it. Yet in the new continuity, he was never Robin - from day one of his superhero-internship with Batman, he went by the name "Red Robin" (a holdover from Ye Olde 52, where he'd adopted the Kingdom Come name and costume). And rather than wearing the Neal Adams-designed suit (the best any Robin ever had), he apparently only ever wore the all-red one. Poor kid.

This new costume is best decribed as "busy." It's red and black, keeping the existing colorscheme, but changes the pattern so it's not obviously based on Robin. A red panel covers the center of his torso (front and back) and the insides of his upper arms. At the waist, the panel switches from the center to the outside, with two red sections curving down to mid-thigh level. There are two chunky red stripes below that, then red kneepads. A golden harness crosses his chest, and there are two thin straps running from it to his belt. Similar gold bands wrap around his biceps, and he seems to have metal plates on his gloves. In traditional Robin style, his boots barely come up higher than his ankles. On his left shoulder is a raised disc with what we surmise is meant to be his logo.

It's all very much overdone. He's a stealthy ninja, why would he need so many pointless embellishments? Keep the harness, sure, but lose the tiny straps below it. Heck, even the bands on his arms look enough like Batman's capsule-style utility belt that they could stay, but get rid of the metal on his gloves. And he definitely doesn't need all that red on his legs, so tone that down a little - just because it worked on the Young Justice cartoon, it doesn't mean it works in the comics. There's a good costume under here somewhere, but somebody should have taken the designer's pencils away when he was about 90% done. Or rather, let him stop: one of Brett Booth's earlier attempts looked a lot sleeker, but DC pushed him to add more to it.

Red Robin was sculpted by Robert Lynders, who's done a lot more 4" stuff for DC Direct than 6". The face is appropriately youthful, showing Tim to be the kid that he is. He's wearing a domino mask that looks a lot like the one Nightwing wore: lots of sharp, pointed angles. An especially nice job was done on his spiky hair, which is just asymmetrical enough to be natural.

For some reason, DCD's natural tendency to make their toys too large to properly fit in a display with other companies' offerings is in overdrive with their new Teen Titans figures (which are not to be confused with their New Teen Titans figures). Robin - who, remember, is still supposed to be in his mid-teens - stands 6¾" tall, which is just ridiculous. He has hinged ankles, swivel boot tops, hinged knees, balljointed hips, swivel gloves, hinged elbows, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge shoulders, and a balljointed head. It's all good, but we are missing something (and for once, we're not talking about a waist, though no, he doesn't have one).

Part of Tim's New 52 costume is a wing pack (built by Virgil Hawkins) that allows him to fly - writer Scott Lobdell insisted on this design feature, so Robin wouldn't constantly be getting left behind on the ground when his superpowered teammates raced off to a fight. When it's relaxed, it hangs like a cape, but when it's active, it flares out like Falcon or Darkhawk. The figure has the backpack - it plugs in via a huge squarish peg - but it can't move. It just hangs, down, forever, with no way of spreading it out. The sculpt is nice (and incredibly sharp), but it's unimpressive from the get-go.

It may seem like the New 52 has done a great disservice to Tim Drake. He went from the best Robin in the best costume to... neither of those things. But to be fair, the damage was done before the reboot: the (re-)introduction of Damian Wayne pushed him to leave the role of Robin, and his costume had already been replaced three times over. So changing his origin - Tim Drake was many things, but "Olympic-caliber gymnast" wasn't one of them - and dropping him into this over-designed costume really aren't so bad after all. The toy's cape is not made as well as it could be, and the figure is way too tall, but otherwise this is a good attempt.

-- 11/13/14

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