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The Court of Owls has set its Talons loose on Gotham City, and Batwing happens to be around to prevent one Talon’s attempted assassination of Lucius Fox. It’s Batwing versus a Talon from the Mid-Nineteenth Century, and it makes for a fun, action-packed read though not a terribly important chapter in either the series or the crossover.
Tie-ins happen. They’re an inevitability of comics. Sometimes, they can be awesome while other times they are more of a chore. This issue of Batwing doesn’t fall into either category. It’s definitely closer to being awesome than a chore, but this issue does have that arbitrary air about it as it dips into the current Batman event for the sake of being included. I think comic readers in general are savvy enough to know this is how crossovers work, though. The series takes a departure from regular business hopefully grab a little sales boost that will keep it going longer. It’s a marketing move. Most of us accept that and hope they will at least make it entertaining and reasonable.
Judd Winick and Marcus To succeed on both of those fronts. Thankfully, Night of the Owls comes at a good time for Batwing. The book just completed its first story arc, which ended with a showdown in Gotham City. No logic has to be strained to keep David Zavimbe around either. He has taken the opportunity of being in the home Batman and the headquarters of Batman, Incorporated to get some maintenance for his equipment. That makes perfect sense to me. It’s a simple explanation that succeeds in putting Batwing on the board for Night of the Owls.
Winick doesn’t really paint a detailed picture of who this particular Talon is. This is only a one issue story, so I guess that isn’t too surprising. He does effectively give a general sense of this Talon in relation to Talons in general, though. Where Talons are meant to be stealthy assassins, this Talon is more the savage killer. Marcus To does a good job of depicting this Talon in that vein too. There’s a dangerous presence about him, and the action is equally well done. I particularly loved the fight’s finish.
This issue isn’t completely detached from Batwing’s status quo. Winick foreshadows David’s upcoming adventure with Somali pirates, and we get a little plot point with David having to deal with the frustrating realities of African politics even in Gotham City. These are small story beats, but I appreciate that Winick included them to keep this feeling like the same book.
So I guess there is an elephant in the room here, though. It may be a small elephant, but it still has that trunk and those big ears. The new black Batman character gets paired up with the only other notable black character in Batman’s corner of the DC Universe. David Zavimbe — meet Lucius Fox. Just looking at this story, there is really nothing wrong with that. The rationale that puts these two characters together makes sense. But when you look at it in the broader context, it’s rather disappointing. It has this underlying segegrationist feeling. Here we have Batwing in Gotham City for the first time, and the only member of Batman’s expansive cast we have him interact with is… the other black guy?
I’ll admit this is kind of an unfair criticism, but I don’t think it’s unwarranted. This has been a problem in comics for years. It’s almost like there’s this compulsion to have all black characters know each other. If you have a book with a black lead character, there’s a pretty high probability you are going to see other black characters guest star, whether their presences make sense or not. It’s not something limited to DC either. How many times have Luke Cage and Black Panther teamed up? Because those two have so many things in common. So admittedly, Batwing protecting Lucius Fox isn’t that bad. It makes perfect sense in story terms. But it comes with that uncomfortable sense that they’ve put the black characters together. Also, Lucius Fox wasn’t even on the list of Bat-characters I was hoping to see Batwing interact with during his visit to Gotham.
Batwing’s tie-in to Night of the Owls is a light on substance, but it does make for an entertaining issue of action. Like I’ve said, I can forgive an arbitrary tie-in so long as it still entertains me. This one succeeds on that score. I would have liked a more fleshed out Talon and someone other than Lucius for Batwing to interact with. But the action between Talon and Batwing makes for a fun read. While this isn’t the strongest issue of the series, it’s still a good one.