By: Adam Basciano
The book begins with our titular hero engaged in a brutal battle with a costumed villain named Massacre. Given his name, it’s not surprising that he gets his jolly’s from killing people. After stabbing Batwing in the chest, Massacre turns his attention to a bus full of people as his next target. The book shifts to six weeks earlier to find Batwing on the hunt for Masika Kunto a.k.a. Blood Tiger, the “former captain of a warlord, who now runs the third largest drug ring in the city of Tinasha, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Consequently as Batman and Batwing apprehend him, it is revealed that Blood Tiger is running from a mass murderer who beheaded some of his associates. The scene then shifts to the local police department, where we discover that Batwing is none other than Officer David Zavimbe. He works in a mostly corrupt police department, (Seriously? Aren’t all police departments corrupt in the comic book world?) save for one person Officer Kia Okuru. She informs him that an empty wallet with I.D. was found at the crime scene. The wallet belonged to Dede Yeboah. Back at the Haven( Batwing’s version of the Batcave), Batman and Batwing discover that their identified victim was once a superhero known as Earthstrike. It turns out that Earthstrike was a founding member of The Kingdom, a group of seven superheroes, the first on the African Continent. After ending the revolution and freeing the county, they simply disappeared. Curious as to why a former superhero would be in the mix with drug dealers, Officer Zavimbe heads back to work. He arrives to find that the whole precinct had been murdered, most of them beheaded. As he read’s the blood stained warning on the wall that says “Stay Away”, he is stabbed from behind by none other than Massacre.
Let me be perfectly honest with you, I had absolutely no intension of reading this book. I had written it off, because of its connection to “Batman Incorporated.” You see, Grant Morrison’s run on Batman was very hit and miss with me. In fact, I detested everything Batman related by Morrison post “R.I.P.” So when he announced “Batman Inc.” as the “franchising of Batman”, I thought; “Oh Great Batman is going to be the comic book equivalent of McDonald’s!” Naturally, I didn’t even read that book and planned on handing “Batwing” the same fate. Then I thought to myself; “If I do this, I will be no better than what irk’s me the most, I’d become a “basement dweller.” So I read the book, and boy am I glad I did. Judd Winick has made the concept of Batman Incorporated believable and justifiable to me. Batman can’t be everywhere, so it makes sense he’d want to have agents elsewhere to carry out his war on crime So long as these other Batmen are able to stand on their own two feet solving their own problems, I’m down with it. Sure, Batman makes a cameo in this issue but Batwing does all the heavy lifting. The character of David Zavimbe is instantly relatable. The high-tech armored costume might not be, but the guy underneath it is. At his core, he’s just an average guy who’s trying to make the world he’s living in a better place one day at a time. In essence, don’t we all try to do the same. With a few exceptions, Batman and most of the other heroes in the DCU are dealing with fantastical over the top situations. It adds a sense of variety to have a comic book start out of the gate dealing with “real world” crime in the form of drugs. Drug rings may not be the most focal of issues we face in North America, but it is more prevalent in other parts of the world. Speaking of the rest of the world, in one issue Judd Winick has taken the DC Universe global. I mean really, why isn’t this more common in the comic book industry? Is super villainy solely confined to North America or something? The only real problem I had with this issue was that the beginning of the book nullifies any suspense that the ending was trying to create.
I’ve read almost all of the titles released on week one of the DCU relaunch and in my opinion, the Bat – Books have the best art of the lot. “Batgirl” and “Detective Comics” look great but Ben Oliver’s work on “Batwing” is spectacular. This is my first exposure to his artist, which has me wondering where he’s been hiding all these years? The art has a painted quality to it. Whether it’s actually painted or not, I have no idea. This doesn’t have your typical “comic book” look to it. Instead, it feels as though Ben Oliver was providing an artists drawing of real life people, or a rendering of a photograph. Each main character had very distinctive facial features. In a medium where it’s common for characters to have SFD, (Same Face Disease) it’s refreshing to have a uniqueness to each character. I’m not a fan of over excessive violence in superhero comic books, and the last image in the book is gruesome to be sure. Having said that, never has something so gruesome looked so stunning. There are a handful of artist whose art stops me in my tracks, causing me to flip back and forth between pages for another look. Jim Lee, Alex Ross, Michael Turner and Shane Davis come to mind. After this issue, you can add Ben Oliver to that list.
“Batwing”, like the other new books is very accessible, whether you’ve read “Batman Incorporated” or not. This book leaves you wanting more and full of questions. Who Is Massacre? Who are the other members of The Kingdom? How and why did they disappear? Of course, you need to read subsequent issues to find out, which I fully intend to do. It didn’t have the hype of “Justice League”, the fan excitement of “Action Comics”, or the critical acclaim of “Swamp Thing” and “Animal Man”, but for me “Batwing #1” was the surprise hit of the week.
Overall Grade 8/10