Of the thirteen relaunch titles hitting the racks this week, "Batwing" was the one I was most unsure of. I had only barely touched the limited run of "Batman, Inc.," and, therefore knew little about the character. Of course, part of the logic (stretching the term, yes, I know) behind this relaunch was to introduce new readers to new characters and vice versa. What better time to get to know Batwing then?
For those in the dark about this character, I give you this: Batwing is a Batman-approved crimefighter operating in Tinasha, a city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In his secret identity as David Zavimbe, Batwing serves on the Tinasha Police Department. This keeps him informed of the latest crime scenes and helps him to keep an eye on the rest of the force. Given that, from this first issue, it seems apparent that Batwing is Zavimbe's mask, rather than the reverse as is frequently postulated among Batfans regarding Batman and Bruce Wayne. Like Batman, Batwing employs non-lethal methods in his quest for justice, but unlike Batman, he doesn't seem to be getting much help in that quest.
Got it? Good.
The issue itself is filled with action, opening with Batwing trading blows with a menacing meanie who goes by the moniker of Massacre. From what little we see of Massacre in this issue, he lives up to his name, and that is precisely why Batwing is fighting him. Their battle is intense and brutal, with Massacre's blades finding their target more than once. In the middle of the battle, however, we're thrown into a flashback that appears to last the rest of the issue. I use the term "appears" as it is fuzzy to me if we ever actually return to the the same timeline that starts the book off. The flashback kicks in, and we never truly get a declared "reset" back to "now," even though there are several scene shifts. A second read-through seemed to have set me straight on the timeline, which is that the issue, once set to flashback continues as such for the remainder.
That makes the ending less hanger and more cliff, but I suppose the revelation of what happens from there will be the excitement of the next issue. The flashback and the present-day both offer intense settings to be further investigated.
As this is a Bat-book, there is a Batman appearance, naturally, but it truly gives the star billing over to Batwing. The character has piqued my interest and the story, by Judd Winick, is unlike anything else in the twelve other books this week. It's certainly more than enough to bring me back for a second issue.
Ben Oliver's art is dramatic and intense, beautifully rendered and wonderfully set. That second read-through I previously mentioned allowed me the chance to notice that when Batwing is involved, the backgrounds are sparse, but when Zavimbe is present, the world around him is lush with detail and design. Again, this book distinguishes itself from the rest of DC's releases this week, this time through its art.
As far as debut issues go, this one has it all: the establishment of both hero and identity, an introduction of foes who may yet become rogues in the characters of Blood Tiger and Massacre, an appearance by one of (if not the premiere) DC's most established and beloved heroes, and great art to boot. This book has plenty of potential, but a little raw out of the gate, which works to its advantage. Anything, at this point, is possible, and I'm certain the final page isn't the last surprise we'll be seeing. If you're looking for a new DC book to latch onto, this one just might be what you're looking for, but you may have to search for it, as it is sure to be an overlooked gem and is likely to have been under-ordered.