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Batwing #1 | Comic Reviews | Nerdy Nothings

Batwing #1

Batwing #1


Guest post by: Tom Tomorrow

I want to start off on the obvious: Batwing is a gorgeous book. This is my first exposure to Ben Oliver’s art, and combined with Brian Reber’s paint-style colors, the book takes on a unique aesthetic. The detail and design sense are similarly impressive, as Oliver populates the book with a fair number of new heroes and villains, as well as the supporting cast, giving everyone their own distinctive look and style.

But then, it wasn’t the art that made me approach this book with trepidation. My opinion of Judd Winick has varied widely over the years, and while I really liked his recent run on Justice League: Generation Lost, I worried that the Congolese setting of this book might bring out the political caricature Judd Winick of DC Universe: Decisions, the Judd Winick whose presence on a book almost invariably meant that some character would contract HIV. And I suppose it still might, but for right now, that Judd Winick is nowhere to be seen. What we have instead is a really solid introduction to Batwing, his supporting cast, and the motivations and details that set him apart from the original Dark Knight.

To capsulize: by day, David Zavimbe is a police officer in Tinasha, a city in the Democratic Republic of Congo; by night, he fights Congolese criminals as Batwing, outfitted with hi-tech armor and weaponry by Batman himself. The story opens in the midst of a pitched battle between Batwing and the aptly-named Massacre, whose goal appears to be slaughtering folks in a tour bus. Before that can happen, the story flashes back to “six weeks ago,” when Batman and Batwing are taking down a team of drug-runners. In the process, Batwing stumbles onto a gruesome crime, which he leaves for the police to investigate. As a police officer himself, Batwing is positioned to help the force (which, like Gotham’s, is largely corrupt) both by fighting crime directly and by helping improve things from the inside, which is a nice spin on what could easily have been a carbon-copy of the Batman/Gordon relationship.

The plot thickens at Batwing’s Haven — his version of the Batcave — and we’re treated to a brief glimpse into the history of African superheroics. In superhero comics, too often the action centers around big American cities, and just as often the heroes of other lands are stereotypes, whose powers or codenames or costumes simply must be tied to their place of origin (see: Texas Twister, Rising Sun, Shamrock, Tasmanian Devil, etc.). Winick and Oliver happily avoid that trope, and I hope they continue to explore the heroes of The Kingdom.

It’s not all good, however. It would be nice, in a country with five national languages (none of them English), to have some indication that the dialogue is ‘translated.’ The issue ends on a shocking cliffhanger, but the cliffhanger takes place during the flashback, which makes it a little confusing and also robs it of much of its drama. We know that David makes it out alive, because we saw him at the beginning — and, in fact, it seems like the book would have done just as well to cut out the opening section and leave it for later in the arc. But overall, Winick provides us with a pretty pitch-perfect introduction to a new cast and some woefully unexplored areas of the DCU, and Oliver provides us with some of the best comic art I’ve seen in awhile. I was not expecting to like this book as much as I do. KEEP IT.

tags: batwing, ben oliver, judd winick, the new 52

  • Anonymous

    Your review convinced me to read this issue, something I, like you, was very on-the-fence about. I ended up liking it a lot, too… not enough to start buying it, necessarily, but I’m going to read along for the first arc and maybe grab it in trade. I think you hit a lot of my own feelings on it… it sets up the African environment really, really well and ably introduces an element of diversity (both in character and in story) that DC could really use. I think that, if that was their primary mission here, they succeeded. I also agree with you about the opening sequence being kind of pointless and taking away the drama of the flashback. The one place where we disagree, I think, is on the colors: to me they look too artificial. It reminds me of those 1980s books that thought it would be super-cool to have computer graphics. The pencilwork is solid, though. 

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