Batwing #1 introduces the latest addition to the Batfamily, bringing one of Batman, Inc.’s franchisees into the new DCU. But just who is Batwing, really?
Written by: Judd Winick
Art by: Ben Oliver
Colors by: Brian Reber
Letters by: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover: Ben Oliver & Brian Reber
Assistant Editor:Rickey Purdin
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Previously, in the old DC Universe: Bruce Wayne decided that Gotham needed to stop hogging all the Batpeople, so he decided to practice the ancient business art of franchising. Batwing, briefly introduced in Batman, Inc. #5 and bat-franchisee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, has made the cut after Flashpoint.
IS THIS A SPRINT OR A MARATHON?
Judd Winick hits the ground running in Batwing #1, opening with a bloody melee between Batwing and his antagonist Massacre, a machete-wielding, skull-wearing maniac. Massacre seems to want to machete a bus to death, for whatever reason. Flashback to six weeks previous, when Batwing beats on a drug lord, hangs out with Batman and coaxes a little police work on the side. Oh yeah, and discovers a bunch of dismembered bodies that Massacre is responsible for. So it looks like the first arc will be how Batwing gets from a few piles of corpses to playing patty-cake with the very creepy-looking Massacre.
Winick’s script suffers a little from being a bit too quick to get all the pieces into play. This is a fast issue. We’re briefly introduced to two supporting cast members, get two dust-ups, two piles of corpses, and even a taste of Africa’s superhero history. Massacre is built up as a very convincing threat. But all this doesn’t leave much time for learning about David Zavimbe himself. He’s a desk officer in the local police force, he has a suit of Batarmor and a Batcave and a Batfriend, but who is he beyond that? This is particularly important in light of Batwing’s wafer-thin introduction back in the old DCU. He’s the ‘African Batman’ (leaving aside that the idea of having a Batman to represent an entire continent is absurd), but what does that mean? Objections aside, this is an exciting issue with a lot of energy, and I hope that energy is directed towards learning about Zavimbe in the next few issues
BEN OLIVER LIKES DRAWING ARMOR
Ben Oliver’s art is very slick, and pairs well with Brian Reber’s colors. The panel layout is edgy and nontraditional, matching the energetic pace of the story. As he makes abundantly clear from the backup interview, Oliver is extremely jazzed about illustrating Batwing’s armor, which he does with aplomb, but sometimes the art is a little too clean and lacking in detail for my tastes. Oliver doesn’t shy away from depicting some rather brutal violence, which gives the massacre scenes some real punch. The art is a real strength, complimenting the story well.
GOOD BUT NOT GREAT
When I first read the solicitations for Batwing, I was worried that it might be somewhat exploitative. This issue literally piles on the bodies, and emphasizes the corruption and violence that plagues the real-life DRC, but also adds a little flavor by introducing an early African superhero group that promises to be key to the story. Hopefully, Winick will be able to interestingly flesh out that backstory and create his own African mythology in the new DCU, balancing out some of the negativity.
This is a solid introductory issue, but it doesn’t knock it out of the park. I’m interested enough to follow Batwing for a few issues to see if it can grow. I think the book will succeed based on whether Winick can invest the Batwing character with something more than ‘African Batman with a jetpack.’ I don’t have any feel for Zavimbe’s motivations or uniqueness, but to Winick’s credit, we’ve got an archvillain, a mystery, and enough plot to chew over for a few months. The pieces are in place, now Winick just has to put them together. He’s got an art team that can provide what he needs and a very scary villain in Massacre. All Batwing #1 needs more of is Batwing.
MAJOR SPOILER QUESTION: If we have a character named Batwing, is a character named Batcycle far behind?