Review by Frank Plowright
When first published as a miniseries in 1991, A Hero Reborn was Robin’s first solo title in his fifty years of being Batman’s sidekick. It was surprisingly successful, the first issue going through several printings, all the more remarkable for it arriving a mere two years after the mean-spirited conclusion to the Batman story Death in the Family. Fans were encouraged to call a premium rate phone line to determine whether or not Robin would survive that story. The thumbs pointed resolutely down.
Tim Drake was a new Robin, introduced with undue haste after the demise of his predecessor, and had been a familiar character for year when this story began, without having put on the Robin uniform. We first see him accompanying Batman in Gotham as ordinary citizens with no criminal records are becoming killers. Tim is conflicted, and unsure if he wants to step into the role apparently designated for him when Bruce Wayne took him in. This is solid Batman from Alan Grant, appealingly drawn by Norm Breyfogle, whose graphic style occasionally brings 1970s Batman artist Jim Aparo to mind.
Having tried the costume for the first time, Tim remains unsure whether he’s deserving of the role, and with his mother dead and his father comatose, decides to visit Paris to test himself under the tutelage of a Buddhist Lama. Also wanting to test themselves is Lady Shiva, a deadly assassin who’d successfully mixed it with the best of DC’s more earthbound heroes in the past.
Writer Chuck Dixon is primarily no-frills, delivering action supeheroics. He enjoys an action scene, and rarely wastes time heading there. His character moments are a surface veneer, but the lack of expository thought balloons common to superhero comics of the period means this work stands the test of time better than many more highly regarded contemporary writers. And he does the deliver the thrills. Within a day of arriving in Paris Robin has tracked down a gang of Chinese thugs with heavy connections, and rescued an undercover DEA agent.
Tom Lyle’s art is crowded and cluttered, yet that’s not unsuited to the claustrophobic atmosphere the story demands. By the conclusion Robin has achieved his purpose, but in unpredictable fashion, and scored a major victory.
Neither of the two stories are particularly memorable, but they have a professional polish not always applied to more recent Batman material. This has now been re-issued with extra content, filched from the next book Tragedy and Triumph, as Robin Reborn.