Going into the second week of DC’s New 52, I didn’t have high expectations for Batwing #1. Not that I thought a bat-character in Africa couldn’t be good, I just didn’t expect it to be—even with Judd Winick writing. Well, the joke’s on me. Batwing is excellent and certainly a book to watch. It packs all the punch of the best kind of Batman stories, yet is set in a brutal backdrop that makes Gotham city look pale in comparison.
Batwing operates out of Tinasha, one of the most crime-ridden cities in all of Africa. The man underneath the Batwing suit is David Zavimbe, an idealist in a corrupt world. Batman may be providing his tech but Batwing is a dedicated crimefighter in his own right, working both sides of the aisle as a as a cop during the day and a costumed vigilante at night. As a cop, Zavimbe is frustrated as most of the men in his precinct can be bought off with bribes and don’t seem too concerned with investigating crimes carefully. As Batwing, Zavimbe must work to establish a presence in a town where dressing up in a bat-suit won’t necessarily inspire fear.
Batman makes a cameo, helping establish Batwing and give assistance on his case. Although Batman is there in an advisory capacity, it’s up to Batwing to get down to it and try to solve a mass murder he discovers while apprehending a drug warlord. One of the men murdered has an especially mysterious past that when it is brought to light it creates more questions than answers. While it was cool to see Batman and have him help Batwing, it felt a little like Batman was holding his hand through the investigation. Batwing also has his own “Alfred” of sorts in Matu Ba, a member of a child soldier rescue organization who helps Batwing out. Ba is only seen in a couple panels though, so his exact role has yet to be defined.
During the course of the investigation, Batwing encounters his first real arch-nemesis in a character known as Massacre, who certainly lives up to his name! They have an intense battle, proving Massacre to be quite formidable. The stakes get incredibly high by issue #1’s end, and it leaves off with an excellent hook into the next issue. By the time I got to the issue’s end I felt the book had packed an awful lot of content into a little space—and that’s a good thing.
For a book with a new character that has a lot to prove, Batwing does a great job of establishing who Batwing is, what he does, and what he’ll be up against in the coming months. Tinasha is a chilling town where bloodshed is commonplace, and Batwing must work doubly hard to put the bad guys away. Winick has really made the best of this setting, making the difficult odds Batwing is up against interesting to read about and Batwing a character worth giving a damn about. Winick did such a good job here, I’m anticipating his Catwoman book quite a bit more than I was originally.
I was immediately struck by the art in Batwing, even though some of the angles in first couple pages are not the most dynamic. The art and layout are sophisticated. Ben Oliver does some of the most eye opening, standout artwork in the DC books this week, with characters exhibiting a degree of realism not readily apparent in your average everyday comic book. The colors by Brian Reber are also lush, with the book exhibiting an almost painted look that adds to the realism of the work. This is very much an artsy Bat-title. The character design is good with Batwing looking great, Massacre scary and Batman looking badass in Oliver’s style.
Not just another Bat-book, Batwing #1 was one of my overall favorites in the second week of new releases. It’s definitely worth your attention, so give the first issue a look. You’ll see how this “Batman of Africa” book is really onto something, and that Batwing is a hero in the DCnU to watch.