THE NEW 52, Week 2:
With painted art by Ben Oliver, Batwing #1 may be the most beautiful book out of the New 52 released so far. It has a depth and emotionality to it that catches the eye. But in its lushness is some old school storytelling, with excessive splash pages and a sprawl to the story resulting in not much actually happening.
What does happen is pretty grim, despite the hope offered by Batman, Inc. As a police officer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, David Zavimbe tried to work for justice within the law. As a cover, he still does. But thanks to Bruce Wayne, Zavimbe also strikes in the night as Batwing, and the landscape of the Congo may be more horrific than the jungles of Gotham City.
His nemesis Massacre has a rather disturbing calling card, earning this book its Teen rating and then some. In fact, DC seems to be underrating the violence here. Apparently you need to have a supernatural bent in order to earn the "plus;" as long as this sort of thing actually happens in war torn areas, it's okay.
Writer Judd Winick, a longtime proponent of diversity in comics, certainly has the earnestness down pat. And Zavimbe's voice differs greatly from Winick's trademark smart-alecky characters. In fact, it's hard to find any humor here, as Winick focuses on a DC Universe version of the tragedy happening in the Congo.
The closest thing to lightness comes in establishing Zavimbe's own support, but even then Batwing's "Alfred" has a more obvious dark origin. It may very well be true that no one in the Congo remains untouched by violence. Certainly, no one in this book is.
But is it entertaining? To some extent, yes. It feels less complete than the other first issues so far, and Massacre seems an echo of Marvel's Moon Knight enemy Bushman, but Batwing #1 does feel like a solid beginning.
Unfortunately in its release, this came out before any other book referencing Batman, Inc. which means that Batwing #1 really isn't as stand-alone as it purports to be. (But let's not be coy; the industry isn't going to survive on individuals coming in and buying just one title.) It's hard to shake the feeling that it might just as well have been a mini-series in the old DC Universe.