With this issue, Batwing secures its place as one of the true gems of the New 52 as it presents some of the final pieces of David Zavimbe’s origin without missing a beat of its present day story. This is how it is done. This book is the example of what the entire New 52 line should have been.
Batwing intercepts Massacre in Egypt to prevent the death of yet another member of Africa’s legendary superhero team, the Kingdom. As that plays out, the story gives glimpses into more of David’s path, showing his frustration with becoming part of a corrupt police force and his recruitment by Batman. This battle in Egypt brings the series full circle to the opening scene of the very first issue.
I really love the pacing of this book. Judd Winick delivers portions of Batwing’s origin in just the right amounts at just the right times. Wisely, he saves the moment of David Zavimbe’s recruitment by Batman for last. It’s the moment readers probably wanted to see the most, but it is also the moment we all already knew about. Showing it as the last piece of the origin allows readers to actually know the man who Batman is recruiting, giving it far more substance than if we got this scene in the very first issue. Other books could have learned from this. Too many titles have done poor jobs at rolling out origins and introducing their lead characters. Having read these six issues of Batwing, I’m more familiar with David Zavimbe than I am some longstanding DC characters. I know Batwing better than I do the current Green Arrow. I know Batwing better than the current Hawkman. I could continue on with a sadly long list of DC characters.
Regarding our lead character, the magic trick Winick has pulled off here is that he has made Batwing in the same spirit as Batman without making David Zavimbe into a clone of Bruce Wayne. It was so important for this character’s success that he not be simply an African Bruce Wayne. Winick has turned David into a character all his own. Tragedy did not cause David to turn himself into a warrior. The tragedy is that he was turned into one. Now, he’s not trying to prevent wrongs that he suffered. He’s trying to make up for wrongs that he committed. It’s an origin story that is Bat-worthy without being Batman’s.
As previous issues have, this one introduces us to another member of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is another reason Batwing is one of the best titles of the New 52. Much like Grant Morrison did with the Great Ten, the existence of the Kingdom makes the new DC Universe a broader and more interesting place. It hardly matters that the team no longer exists. The point is that they did and are part of the new history of the DC Universe. That makes this world a more diverse and relevant place, which was one of the stated major goals of the relaunches. I would love it if the Kingdom made appearances elsewhere via flashback stories. Did they ever team up with the Justice League?
Massacre’s true identity is suggested in this issue, but it’s not actually confirmed. This leads me to expect a swerve coming soon in regard to who is behind Massacre’s mask, and I have a fairly good suspicion about who it is and even how he knows what he knows about the Kingdom. Either way, Massacre’s identity will be a bit predictable. That is a shame, but it’s not necessarily the wrong way to go with the character. It will definitely make the character a richer source of stories and drama than having him just be some random guy.
Ben Oliver continues to maintain the high quality when it comes to the art, but Brian Reber’s colors have to be appreciated too. Reber is a major factor it maintaining Batwing’s unique look. He showed that when ChrisCross filled in as artist a couple issues ago. Together, Oliver and Reber make these pages some of the more memorable to look at among the current stock of DC titles.
Next issue takes the story to Gotham City, as I think everyone knew the book would eventually do. It shows restraint that it took Winick this long to pull the trigger on that move, though. Some would have done it from the very start, which honestly would have been a waste. Doing it this way makes the trip to Gotham and the inevitable guest appearances from other characters feel earned. It has been proven that Batwing has plenty to offer in his home setting, so it’s clear that going to Gotham now isn’t trying to compensate for anything. It’s really just giving us readers what we want.
Few DC titles can currently hold a candle to Batwing when it comes to achieving the goals of the New 52. This is something new. This is something intelligent, relevant and diverse. Batwing doesn’t just introduce a new character but a largely untapped region of the DC Universe. More importantly, Batwing does it well.