Batwing #0! African Batman with a jet-pack! Herein, a once regular Batwing reader reviews the zeroth issue for Major Spoilers.
Written by: Judd Winick
Pencils: Marcus To
Inks: Ryan Winn & Richard Zajac
Colors: Brian Reber
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Cover by: Marcus To with Brian Reber
Editor: Harvey Richards
Publisher: DC Comics
Previously, in Batwing: Nothing happened previously! This is issue zero! But kidding aside – Batwing is David Zavimbe, an ex-child soldier now serving as a police officer in Tinasha, a city in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He also flies around wearing a jetpack built by Batman and fights crime, so that’s pretty cool too.
DEATH JACK IS THE GREATEST
Batwing #0 shows a fatal flaw in DC’s Issue 0 initiative. Much of the ongoing Batwing narrative to date has been about exploring David Zavimbe’s once-mysterious past as a child soldier. Loyal Batwing readers now know this story. So halting the action to deliver an unnecessary elaboration on his past is time wasted. If the point is to grab that most mythical of beasts, the new comics reader, then you’d better have something engaging on the plate. This issue was not engaging.
The one great thing this issue delivers is a bad guy with the awesome/ridiculous name Death Jack, who is a fat man with devil horns wearing a jockstrap over biker shorts. His villainous master plan is to shoot fireballs at Range Rovers that specifically contain child aid workers. That’s how you make the money, see? His powers are so awesome that pre-jetpack/bat armored David Zavimbe beats him using the mysterious power of a stick. Reflecting on the fact that his foe is known to escape judgment by bribing police, Zavimbe wisely turns the beaten Devil Jack over to the police, whereupon the villain… bribes the police and is back on the streets. Justice, Batwing-style! In one of the issue’s lighter moments, Batman later accuses Zavimbe of having a genius-level intellect, in what can only be an expression of pure sarcasm.
As for Zavimbe himself, he still reads like Judd Winick created a character by cobbling together the worst, most clichéd African social issues. AIDS orphan? Check. Child soldier? Check. Victim of institutional corruption? Check. And the ending is especially galling, as Zavimbe ends up playing second fiddle to Batman in his own series. Batman takes Zavimbe to Gotham City to gift him with a suit of armor and a jetpack, telling the once-child soldier that he’s now a soldier in the Batarmy. It’s such a ridiculous scene, with hackneyed, over-militarized dialogue that emphasizes Zavimbe’s submission to Batman. Why a resourceful, supposedly genius-level intellect requires Batman’s blessing to do what he’s already been doing is beyond me. Winick also does that thing bad writers do where they treat the massive continent of Africa like it is one single country. Abysmal.
IT LOOKS ALRIGHT THOUGH
The art is passable.
BOTTOM LINE: I WANT THIS SERIES TO BE SO MUCH BETTER THAN IT IS
This issue zero represents the whole missed opportunity that Batwing has been. For regular readers of Batwing, David Zavimbe’s origins have been a major part of the narrative to date, and his background is mostly been filled in. Seemingly, all this issue 0 expands on is how Matu lost his eye. I used to read Batwing regularly, hoping that it would do something interesting with the story of a different Batman operating in a different culture. But it has never lived up to its potential. Batwing could be really interesting if it ever rose above the level of rote cliché. But it doesn’t. The African setting is explored with all the depth of someone scanning the headlines of a copy of Newsweek in a doctor’s office. There is no expression of Congolese identity, there is nothing real about David Zavimbe, and there is absolutely no use of what could be an interesting, dynamic, underexplored setting. DC has blown a great opportunity to explore a different part of their world that we rarely get to see, and it makes me angry. Batwing is just a painfully generic, clichéd , lazily executed mess. Batwing #0 earns an appropriate and totally correct zero out of five stars. Huzzah.