“Batwing” was definitely one of the more promising debuts for DC’s “New 52” line of titles, taking a weak concept of a defender for an entire continent and giving it the proverbial shot in the arm. But three issues in? The opening story is starting to lose a lot of steam.
Now that Judd Winick’s given us the basic setup — David Zavimbe takes the tools from Batman to become Batwing, the idea of Africa’s super-team known as the Kingdom, and the serial killer called Massacre that’s hunting them down — it feels like there isn’t quite enough left story to push through this third issue. And so, for the bulk of “Batwing” #3, it’s a long fight scene between Batwing and Massacre, with former Kingdom member Thunder Fall on the sidelines. The problem is, the fight isn’t terribly interesting. Batwing himself doesn’t have a terribly robust personality here, and Massacre even less so. And as a result (ignoring the fact that “Batwing” #1 opened with one of the final scenes of the story, so we know that Batwing and Massacre will both survive until that point) there’s little reason to care about the fight. You don’t have any huge personal stake in the fight, save possibly if you’re interested in the slight cliche that is Thunder Fall, the former superhero who now teaches children.
With the attack on Thunder Fall this issue, it’s also hard to keep from feeling like we’re getting a slight retread of “Watchmen.” Former super-team getting hunted down, a hidden secret lurking in their past, and so on. I’m not saying it’s a rip-off (because it’s not), but rather that it’s hitting a lot of the same structural and (to a lesser extent) emotional beats by one of the most famous comic book stories of the past 30 years.
It’s still put together competently, though, even if I’m finding that this issue was a bad way to spur interest in Batwing as a character, by giving him so little to do save a generic fight. Ben Oliver’s art also seems to fall into the competent but not quite as energetic category this month; his normally large sweeping vistas of art feel much more compact and small here, and the characters are much more posed and stiff than I’m used to seeing from Oliver. He and Reber still produce one of the more interesting looks showing up in monthly comics right now, but it feels like a lot of the momentum has been sapped with them, too.
“Batwing” started out fun, but this issue feels like everyone is stalling for time. Hopefully the remaining chapters of this initial story will pick the pace back up, but for now what started out strong is now starting to feel average. Here’s hoping that slipping quality trend doesn’t continue any further down the chain.