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Batwing #20 – Review:A Mash-Up of Other Bat-Characters in a High Tech Suit

Luke Fox gets all the cool toys now.With David Zavimbe now out of the picture, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s second issue of Batwing gives a better look at the new lead, Luke Fox. It’s a solid issue but also an underwhelming one that leaves me wondering if Luke Fox really has anything special to offer as the new Batwing.

I don’t think it’s too high a standard to expect a new character or team to give readers something they aren’t already getting from at least adjacent books in the publishing lineup. Otherwise, what’s the point? What’s the hook? Why should I read this over other books? Batwing has me asking those questions.

As Batwing, Luke Fox has the same smart-mouthed, enthusiastic approach to superheroing as Nightwing. He has to keep his costumed activities secret from his father just like Batgirl. His batsuit borrows heavily from Batman Beyond. He’s highly educated and skilled just like every other current member of the Bat-Family is. There just doesn’t seem to be anything of substance that Luke has that other more prominent Batman characters aren’t already supplying.

Plus, the new Batwing design and concept can e very Batman-meets-Iron-Man, which doesn’t help much on the uniqueness scale either.

To try giving Luke some continuity with David Zavimbe, his first mission has him going to Africa to follow up on a lead David left behind. I do appreciate Palmiotti and Gray going for more of a seamless transition like this rather than immediately cutting all ties to the previous Batwing issues. The threat in this case begins with Lady Marabunta and her mercenary army, themed on African army ants. They work decently as a one-off threat, but the designs are a little too on-the-nose. The antenna and bug eyes push them into cartoony territory.

Yeeeeah. The bug eyes and antenna kind of hurt the intimidation factor.
The idea of using a derivative of the Scarecrow’s toxin as an interrogation tool is a clever idea. I always enjoy those kinds of touches.

What this all really leads up to is the reintroduction of Lion-Mane to the new DC Universe. Lion-Mane is traditionally one of Hawkman’s archaeology-related enemies, but the character’s origins in Africa make him an easy fit in this story. But I have to say -- I’m less than impressed with the New 52 interpretation of the character. Don’t get me wrong. He wasn’t exactly a gem before. The centaur-esque redesign is kind of intriguing, but nothing about this new portrayal is particularly memorable or refreshing. Maybe there’s more to come next issue, but this reads more like a unaltered take on a character who hardly popped off the page in his previous incarnation.

Also, what’s with the cliffhanger? Why are we still doing this kind of cliffhanger? There is not a single reader who believes the new Batwing is about to die. Showing the main character on the verge of imminent death hasn’t been an effective cliffhanger in ages. I don’t need to come back in thirty to know Batwing survives. This may seem nitpicky, but the end of the issue just overplays this so much it kind of gets to me.

Oh, Luke. Being the black guy is your only defining trait at this point.
There was something in last issue that really annoyed me, and it happens again in this one. Palmiotti and Gray reiterate that Luke was Batman’s first choice as Batwing. Really? This is just cheap and insulting to those of us who have stuck with Batwing since the beginning. Zavimbe is already out the door. There’s no reason to talk crap about him once he’s gone. It doesn’t make Luke seem any better, partly because there’s no real logic to it. Why would Batman even be looking for new local talent for his global organization? What? Was he originally just going to skip Africa entirely? Stop trying to prop up the new character be demeaning the old one.

Batwing is a decent enough action book, but it fails to stand out in the crowd of other Batman titles. Luke Fox is borrowing characteristics from other Bat-characters rather than developing any of his own, and he’s being oversold as the one true Batwing. I guess it’s nice that DC Comics is trying to keep a prominent black character in Batman’s franchise, but so far, Luke Fox comes off as a major step down from David Zavimbe.



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