Generally speaking, one of the things that DC does well is their Pride Month books. Last week's DC Pride 2022 was wonderful and even outside of the Pride Month efforts, the publisher has had some fantastic stories and characters falling under the LGBTQ+ umbrella in recent years, including Tim Drake. That character came out as bisexual last year in Batman: Urban Legend #6, so the idea that we'd be getting an entire Pride special devoted to Tim was a pretty exciting one. And on its face, it is. A roundup of those momentous stories as paired with a new one does seem like a solid strategy to celebrate the character and this chapter of his journey. Unfortunately, pulling the stories out from their original context highlights how poorly structured they actually are and shines a spotlight on other issues as well, not to mention aspects that feel poorly toned and preachy in a way that only perpetuates stereotypes about bisexual individuals.
First up in the issue, we get "Sum of Our Parts" which sees Tim meeting up with his old high school friend Bernard Dowd but being super nervous about it because he has a big crush, and he hasn't dealt with this. There are also random kidnappings and a pain cult and the entire story just reads weirdly, like it is in desperate need of some heavy editing. What works is that Tim's anxiety about coming to terms with this seemingly new side of himself feels authentic. But beyond that, everything seems very contrived. Not the idea that Tim could have these feelings, but the way they are expressed. There's too much emphasis on a sense of quirkiness that just falls really flat. This especially becomes a problem toward the end of the story where the idea that bisexuals are indecisive is sort of lightly suggested. Beyond the writing, the art is troubling. It's not bad, but it's certainly an unsettling choice to draw Tim and Bernard in such a fashion that makes them look less like young adults and more like grade school children. It feels fetishistic.
The tone issues continue into the second story "Happy Holidays" which was a one-shot holiday story post-Fear State. It's nice in that we get a coming-out story without a lot of fanfare and everything feels pretty much in character, but again, the story could stand to have a heavier editorial hand in terms of too much dialogue and the art, while better than "Sum of Our Parts", really only shines because of the fantastic use of color. The color here is a gem and it's very pretty to look at. There's also some subtle use of the bisexual pride colors throughout which is a really nice touch.
The real problem in the issue, however, is the new story, "The Elephant In the Room." The story reads like a badly contrived way to force Tim and Stephanie to have to talk to one another about the issues between them. But instead of allowing Stephanie to have her justified hurt feelings and for her and Tim to both have to do emotional work to deal with things — something that is pretty clear that even Tim needs since he doesn't seem to be entirely certain of himself at this point, which is entirely normal in self-discovery — we then jump to a complete dismissal of the relationship with Stephanie so that Tim can introduce her to his new love and suddenly, she's just oh so giddy about it. There's a devaluing of all of the relationships in play that feels very stereotypical and dismissive. And, again, the highly juvenile art makes things even more unnerving.
On the whole, I went into the DC Pride: Tim Drake special wanting to love it. The idea of one of the most enduring of Batman's sidekicks being bisexual is something that feels both groundbreaking and natural all at once, but these stories don't handle it well, particularly out of context. There's a sort of superficial dismissiveness that never really treats the story or its players with respect — especially when you compare Tim's journey with that of another bisexual young hero, Jonathan Kent. This is a title that could have been executed so much better if it were to have offered up new stories with new insight into Tim at this crossroads instead of leaning into a poorly presented "after-school special" kind of spectacle. One can only hope going forward, Tim's journey is handled with more reverence.
Published by DC Comics
On June 14, 2022
Written by Meghan Fitzmartin
Art by Belen Ortega, Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque
Colors by Alejandro Sanchez, Nick Filardi, Luis Guerrero
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Cover by Belen Ortega and Luis Guerrero0comments