Let’s look at the cover: A howling Chinese Were-Dragon (I thought this was supposed to be about the Batman of Africa?), a tagline that’s a pun (Long means “Dragon” in Chinese), and it’s guest-starring Nightwing for some reason (What’s the point of having a Batman Incorporated if you’re not going to use or even have a representative in China? What happened to Black Bat? Why couldn’t Batwing handle this job on his own…other than the obvious reason that more people will buy a book with Nightwing on the cover than Batwing?). Just looking at the cover, my hopes were not high and it advertises exactly what you’re getting.
Batwing is in China with Nightwing and they’re fighting this guy Long (Dragon) only the battle is pretty meaningless. Batwing is repeatedly pummeled and even has his head smashed into the ground a few times, but Marcus To never draws the character taking any damage at all. By the time the battle is over, there isn’t a scrape or bruise to be seen and his armor is as shiny and dent-free as ever. The Beijing setting is never used to its fullest either and all we see is a bland street bordered by 3 apartment buildings and a billboard. It’s all pretty forgettable and 8 pages later the fight is over without the need for Nightwing and with the surprise use of sonic blasts…which wasn’t something I remembered Batwing having. Even worse, he just uses the sonics to knock the dragon out of the sky and he and Nightwing fly away, leaving the angry dragon in the middle of a crowded Beijing street.
From here the story moves on to Matu, Batwing’s Alfred, and his dead family needing to be buried in a fictional African country known as Tundi, which is ran by a giant hammer-wielding man named Lord Battle and it’s at this point that I lose all interest in reading Batwing. Lord Battle has a wizard, robot, and alien henchman who greet Matu upon his arrival at Tundi for his family’s funeral and I’m shaking my head because this is just getting ridiculous. But then the next page shows that Batwing has traveled to Uzbekistan now and HE’S STILL BRINGING NIGHTWING ALONG. And then the story jumps back to Gotham and we watch Batman after the Penguin and I’m just like…what’s the point of this comic? We have “Batman Incorporated” being published now, do we need a comic about a single representative of the organization especially when that comic refuses to focus on that single representative?
And guess what, the end-of-issue teaser advertises how next month’s installment will feature Batwing AND Nightwing again, but they’ll now be teaming up with The Justice League International.
I thought Batwing was supposed to be about a tech-heavy solo-superhero of Africa. Instead the African settings are often made-up or he’s visiting Gotham or China, he’s always needing help from Batman or Nightwing, and now he’s fighting magical enemies and aliens and robots– ya know what I think would’ve been good? A comic about a Batman of Africa, and how the pressure of protecting and uplifting Africa, arguable the most conflicted and diverse continent in the world is too much for one man to bear. Let’s face it: there are too damn many Bat-titles on shelves right now. I would gladly give up “Batwing” if it meant DC would publish a comic featuring Shazaam or The Atom or, hell, I’d even take Ambush-Bug. It’s not that it’s a bad comic or that this issue in particular is terrible on its own merits; the problem is that it lacks ambition to set itself apart from the other books. It’s redundant, unmemorable, and although it can be slightly entertaining at times I find Batwing to be an uninteresting hero in an uninteresting world that only livens up when other heroes guest-star. It’s far from being a must-buy comic.