REVIEW: Batwing #17

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Or – “People Keep Wondering How It’s Not Cancelled, I Figured I’d Check It Out…”

Of all the books in the New 52, Batwing is the one that I have the least interest in, which is a bit odd, given that I’m a huge fan of the original story that gave us his superhero look.  I read #1, but then, I read all the number ones, and I’ve checked in with the execrable Red Lanterns book more than this one.  Blue Beetle, the JLI, O.M.A.C. and Legion Lost have fallen, but Batwing still soldiers on…  What’s the deal?  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

BatwingCoverBATWING #17
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Fabrizio Fiorentino
Color Artist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Harvey Richards
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Batwing:  David Zavimbe grew up in Africa, and lived through a number of atrocities as a child soldier after the tragic death of his parents.  Since taking up the mantle of Batwing (as Bruce Wayne’s franchisee in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) he has been key to Batman Inc’s battle with Leviathan and joined the Justice League International.  He’s also been notably absent from overarching crossovers due to his location, and I don’t know that his title is even really a Bat-book.  So, what’s the secret of his longevity in the dog-eat-dog world of the New 52?

A LOT OF FAMILIAR COMPONENTS…

This issue opens with an interesting scenario, as Batwing swoops over his city, only to get nailed by anti-aircraft fire and literally blown out of the sky!  I’ll give ‘em credit for a bang-up opening, for certain.  It seems that Bee-Dubs is in the crosshairs of one Phillip Marksbury, a kind of evil Bruce Wayne (or, perhaps more aptly, and African Edwin Alva) who is still unhappy about the arrest of his son in previous issues.  We get to see David’s resourcefulness, as well as the technical know-how of his partner/comptroller Matu, which is pretty interesting, if somewhat derivative of Oracle or Punisher’s former pal Microchip.  We also get a kind of fascinating look into David’s day-job as a member of the Tinasha Police Department, a world where he is ostracized and openly maltreated because of his status as the only honest man on the force.  Artistically, this issue is pretty impressive, reminding me of the recent work of Howard Chaykin with more realistic facial features and dimension, and the armored hero (and villain) look appropriately armory and formidable.

GRAND THEFT AUTO: MADE-UP AFRICAN CITY

When Marksbury’s agents stage a prison break to save his son, things get even more complicated, with David going into action in his civilian guise to try to keep the situation from completely blowing up in their faces.  It’s nicely handled stuff, with interesting dialogue throughout the book, and it reminds me of some of writer Fabian Nicieza’s more political work on ‘New Warriors’ a million years ago.  We end with serious tension as the bad guys track down Matu, David finds himself targeted by friend and foe alike, and there’s a very effective last page blackout that leaves us with a serious cliffhanger ending.  In short, if you’re holding this book up as an example of terrible comics continuing while other books get cancelled, this issue isn’t going to be helpful to that proposition.  The main character, while possessed of a backstory full of melodrama and some clichés, manages to be pretty appealing, and even his didactic screaming breakdown works from a storytelling standpoint.  Artistically, it’s a step up from Red Lanterns, and I find artist Fiorentino’s work easier to look at than Ed Benes’ pencils on Batgirl.

THE BOTTOM LINE: NOT THE TRAINWRECK I HAD ASSUMED IT COULD BE…

There’s a lesson to be learned here about strawman arguments and the power of public opinion, but moreover, a lesson about giving new characters a chance to breathe.  As someone who read and enjoyed O.M.A.C., Static Shock and JLI, this book (or at least this issue) ranks higher than my recollections of most of those books.  Batwing #17 impressed me enough to make me wonder if I’ve missed anything in the previous issues, which will send me to the back issue bins and/or the TPB wall next time I’m at Gatekeeper, earning a strong 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  Reader darlings like Deadpool and Kyle Rayner had to start somewhere, and issues like these make me wonder if Batwing has it in him to be the next big thing, despite reader surprise…

Rating: ★★★½☆

DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!
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