If there’s anything this zero issue of Batwing reveals, it’s that DC’s whole Zero Month thing was editorially mandated late in the game, because there’s no way Judd Winick planned on telling this story from the start. Not only that but this is a warning sign that line-wide zero issues are perhaps not a great idea.
Here’s the problem with Batwing having a zero issue. David Zavimbe’s origin has already been told to us. Unlike some other titles which have now been cancelled, Batwing wisely gave us David’s origin in the first story arc. Judd Winick and Ben Oliver did an excellent job of weaving flashbacks into that first story, giving us the major details of David’s life as a child soldier and how he ended up with the life he has today. Yes, it focused more on David’s child soldier days more than anything else, but we did get the complete picture. We did see how David began working as a vigilante and how he was contacted by Batman to join Batman, Incorporated.
So basically, there was really nothing left for a zero issue to do.
Yet, we get it anyway.
What this issue does is revisit David’s early days, focusing more on his attempts to satisfy himself as a police officer on a badly corrupt police force. Again, we have already seen this in the broad strokes. This simply tries to go into more detail about it. Yet, there really isn’t more detail to it. We get a couple of colorful new villains. We even get a bone thrown to that entourage Grant Morrison showed Batwing with in an issue of Batman, Incorporated. But for the most part, this is the same territory that has already been well covered.
There is, however, one significant difference.
Rene Diallo is a character who seems to have been created solely to try to give some substance to this unnecessary revisitation of Batwing’s origin. She is positioned as David Zavimbe’s mother figure. By the facts that we’re dealing with a Bat-character here and this character isn’t around in the present day stories, I’m sure you can guess exactly what happens to her. It's all rather predictable and mechanical.
It just doesn’t work beyond that, though. Rene serves no real purpose whatsoever in Batwing’s origin. His motivations have already been solidly laid out, and the tragedy of her loss isn’t even a drop in the bucket to everything driving David forward. It would be like giving Bruce Wayne an uncle who died later and acting like that helped push him to become Batman. What’s the point in it?
Well, the point of Rene Diallo is to give this zero issue something to do. Such a good job has already been done of telling Batwing’s origin that the zero issue needed this as a weak excuse to revisit it. Enter a sacrificial mother figure. It’s awkward and obviously shoehorned into Batwing’s history.
This leaves me wondering how much of the issue was really written by Winick and how much of it comes from DC editorial. There’s no way the character of Rene Diallo was always meant to exist. She would have been mentioned by now. She definitely would have appeared somewhere in the flashbacks of the first story arc. The writing in general also isn’t on par with what Winick usually produces in this series. Add to that the knowledge that Winick is calling it quits with DC soon, and it seems very likely Winick's solo writer credit on this issue may not be entirely accurate.
Even worse, this story someone manages to screw up continuity that really isn’t even a year old. What’s up with that? I can overlook nitpicking stuff like showing me things that were previously said to have happened three years ago and now saying it was only one. But this issue shows us how Matu Ba lost his eye a year ago. ...Except he didn’t. We have been shown more than once in more than one issue that Matu has been missing his eye for quite awhile. In fact, we’ve been shown that he’s been missing an eye for as long as David has known him. He never had both of his eyes when David was around. Come on. Batwing has only had twelve issues before this. It’s pretty inexcusable to be able to keep so little history straight.
Could a good zero issue of Batwing have been done? It’s hard to say. The origin has already been told and told well. But rather than stomp on continuity that is barely a year old to squeeze out a new origin story, DC could have probably tried thinking outside the box instead. Why not show us what happens after Batman recruits David? It's hardly as though every zero issue is an origin story. We could have had a story about David’s early days as Batwing, training and establishing his identity. That at least would have touched on an area of his history we haven’t really see much about.
But as it is, this is a poor issue and by far the weakest of the series. I honestly feel like zero month has cheated me out of a normally good issue of Batwing. Why are we even doing origin stories a year later? Most of these should have been done when the New 52 began, as Batwing rightly did. Instead, we get this issue that retreads a mutilated version of the character’s origin.
If this week is any indication, DC’s Zero Month is going to be rough.