“Batwing” had a promising first couple of chapters; the introduction of a pan-African super-team called the Kingdom, the mystery of the one hunting them down and glimpses into a corrupt city from which Batwing had risen up. Sure, some elements seemed awfully familiar, but the different setting and larger picture promised something robust.
Six issues in, though, and it’s hard to keep from feeling like “Batwing” is losing steam. We’ve finally returned to the opening scene of “Batwing” #1 and moved past it in the timeline, but don’t think that means we’re at the end of this initial storyline. Instead we still don’t know for certain who’s killing the members of the Kingdom (we’re given whom Batwing now thinks is behind Massacre’s mask, but since the mask hasn’t come off yet it’s quite possibly a fake-out) or why, and that information feels nowhere in sight.
The fact that we’ve finally returned to the Valley of the Kings and the story isn’t over like that first issue implied probably doesn’t help matters. It’s a big request to have a brand-new character and supporting cast carry a long story by way of introduction, and Batwing himself doesn’t seem to have gained much personality to help carry the comic. It’s meant that most of the interest has come from the setting and the Kingdom, and while Judd Winick has let them do the heavy lifting up until now, it’s starting to falter. The fact that the next two issues aren’t going to be set in Africa is also a little eyebrow raising when you think about it. If that’s one of the two big draws, what does it say that a promised big reveal needs to happen elsewhere?
Ben Oliver’s pencils still look nice, though; he and Brian Reber collaborate well together, providing a faux-painted look for the comic that feels expansive and lifelike. They’re especially good for creating silhouettes of characters coming in with the sun behind them; they look beautifully iconic, be it a soaring Batwing or the outline of a rebel fighting a member of the Kingdom. Right now they’re the big draw for “Batwing,” and they’re taking ideas like Batwing’s exo-armor and making them look especially cool, with the mottled patterning on the metal surface.
“Batwing” isn’t a lost cause, but at this point I think the book needs a wrap-up of the story with Massacre and the Kingdom, and more focusing on making Batwing a more robust character. There’s potential in him, but he’s getting lost in his own title right now. Let’s see some more of his present-day personal life, instead of flashbacks that are all starting to blend together. Right now, though, “Batwing” feels like it’s going to drop out of the sky if it doesn’t start accelerating once more.