Batwing #1 review

Anyone old enough to remember the slogan: 'DC Comics aren't just for kids'? That would be this comic. The cover rating is T for teenagers but I'd not be happy giving this to younger teens. It's bloody stuff - severed heads, messages written in spatter ... not what you expect in your average Bat-book.

Then again, this isn't your average Bat-book. It's a lot better. Having been briefly introduced in the pages of Batman Inc, Batwing - 'the Batman of Africa' - here gets his chance to fly. And while he may be new, he's good, holding off the monstrous figure of Massacre as this issue opens.

Most of 'Cradle of Civilization' is set six weeks earlier, when Batman was hanging around to help Batwing get used to his new Batman Inc equipment. When he's not with the Gotham Guardian, Batwing is in his other identity of David Zavimbe, officer in the Tinasha Police Department. It's a corrupt body, but a few cops are trying to make a real difference, chief among them Kia Okura, for whom David has a soft spot. She picks up on a clue left by David at a recent massacre site, one Batwing and Batman are working from another angle - one of the dead men was Dede Yeboah, the former superhero known as Earth Strike. By the end of the issue the police have gotten close to the killer - too close ...

Just imagine Alexander McCall Smith writing the most brutal Batman comic ever and that's what you have here. David's gently detached narration brings to mind Mma Ramotswe of McCall Smith's No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, but she's never had to deal with the horrors Batwing faces.

Luckily, he's not alone. As well as the support of Batman Inc, Batwing has his own Alfred in Matu Ba, who rescues chlld soldiers. His body language, as well as an emphasis in the narration ('currently in my service'), though, hints that perhaps he's not to be entirely trusted. Ba compliments David on his intelligence, and in Judd Winick, Batwing is lucky enough to have a writer who can convey that quality. There's a wisdom to his narration that rings true without being either teeth rotting or smug. This is a good man in Africa, an idealist, and I look forward to spending time with him.

Drawing Batwing is Ben Oliver, whose photo-realistic style is perfect for bringing Africa's little-seen superhero side to life. He makes Batwing the weird figure he should be, a technical marvel who nevertheless fits right into the landscape of the Congo. The action sequences are intense, the workaday scenes convincing, the massacre vignettes appalling. Add in Brian Reber's beautiful colours and you have a superb-looking comic.

Just don't let the kids look.


  1. I am still wondering why the hell we need this comic? It feels like this character adds NOTHING that Bruce doesn't already add. He has nothing original about him.. He's just Bruce in a different country and as a POC. That's it. There is nothing about Batwing that makes me go, "wow, this is an interesting character." In fact, everything ABOUT this title screams cheap Batman rip-off.

    He has a Bat suit, an Alfred, a Bat cave, a bat computer, a secret ID, a Jim Gordon, corrupt police system.. It just it felt like his stories could be told with Bruce. What are we going to find out next? His parents were murdered in front of him? (according to Winick they were victims of AIDs, but he could have someone purposely infect them in front of the poor young David). I just.. I don't get a feeling of a new different voice here to warrant this title. I think they could have done better by going with a hero that acted different from Batman like Mr. Unknown the "Batman of Japan" who has no Secret ID b/c he KILLED IT HIMSELF or Black Bat the Batwoman of China, who we all know and love as Cassandra Cain who has her own fan base already in existence and is vastly different than Bruce.

  2. Good to hear from you, Jan, I can't wait for the LSH titles!

    Batman has set David up as 'the Batman of Africa' but comments in this first issue have me thinking he's going to find that superhero franchising is complicated. So it makes sens to start with Batwing having plenty of similarities - the differences will make the comic fly.

    I do think you're selling the story short, there's no way this could have been set in Gotham.

    And we don't all love Cassandra Cain!

  3. I don't see the story as that different that it couldn't have happened in Gotham to me.. but the biggest problem isn't the STORY, it's the fact that character isn't all that interesting or different that it makes me want to read more. He seems to be Bruce Wayne just in a different country. I want the CHARACTER to be compelling, not the setting. The setting is not enough to tell the story. The character has to show me a reason to care about him and as I see him.. he's just Bruce Wayne. If they wanted to show him as more than just a Bruce Wayne in a different setting, they should have done it in this issue.. and Winick didn't for me.

  4. how can he be bruce wayne? he's not a billionaire, he's a police officer. he's more a man of the people than bruce every could be, and i think we will see that element pop up in future stories. the violence in the Congo is a lot different than Gotham City violence. i thought this book was one of the standouts of the week.

  5. Jan, I'm with Joseph, I don't see how you can possibly say Batwing is basically Bruce in the Congo, they're ... well, Joseph has said it already. Cheers, Joseph.

  6. I must say I was really apprehensive about the whole "Batman in Africa" thing, and am ambivalent about the Batman Inc idea in general, but after reading Issue #1 I must say I am extremely impressed with the art and action in this book. It'll be interesting to see how David's character develops and how the writers tackle the culture and environment in the Congo. I've always been impressed by Marvel's albeit fictitious take on an African country, let's what DC can do in a more 'realistic' environment.

  7. It'll be interesting to see. I've not read #2 yet, as I've so many comics to read that I'd not get to this for weeks - may as well make it a digital purchase after a month, when the price drops!


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