Batwing Vol. 1: The Lost Kingdom review

I think that if you’re not getting the full story, what’s the point of buying a big graphic novel? There needs to be some kind of satisfying conclusion. If you’re going to leave the reader hanging then you at least have to tie up one or two things so that there’s a little closure otherwise the reader who empathized with the protagonist of the story, like their hero, walks away without any sense of accomplishment.

There isn’t any closure here. “Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls” ended on a cliffhanger too, but at least the primary obstacle of 2 whole issues was overcome along with the enemy who weaved in and out of the entire 7 issue narrative collected in that book. Plus, DC needed to get a hardcover out there. It had been 9 months and since the first issue of the “Court of Owls” began and it never wrapped until 2 months after that hardback went to print! That same excuse can’t be applied to “Batwing”.

Batwing’s opening saga (the character’s first adventure EVER) that’s collected here was only 2 issues away from reaching its climax. And it’s not as if these two issues are still to come and haven’t been published yet– it was like three months ago. And even if that was too late for the printers to get to it in time–POSTPONE IT. Let’s be honest, this title hasn’t been selling that well, I doubt that the masses were rioting outside of DC’s offices crying “We want Batwing!” so why not wait it out and give the reader a full story? Instead you get a cliffhanger ending that I guess is supposed to hook you enough that you’ll wait another 6 months or whatever for DC to print Vol. 2 and you’ll come running back for more. I don’t think that’s likely. I think if all issues 1-8 had been printed instead and the reader was given a complete experience then you would have fonder memories of it, it would have more re-readability, you’d be more apt to share it with friends and get them excited about Batwing and then they’d tell their friends and we’d all have one big Batwing party. But that didn’t happen. Volume One offers 3/4 of this hero’s debut adventure and that’s that.

This TPB is definitely not as worthy of your money as it should’ve been.

Content

Batwing Vol. 1: The Lost Kingdom re-introduces readers to the Batman of Africa, David Zavimbe, who was first seen in volume 1 of Grant Morrison’s “Batman Inc.”. This book will take you through his origin and introduce you to his arch enemy, Massacre. It’s written by Judd Winick, who also handles “Catwoman” which might surprise many since the two books couldn’t possibly be more different! Five of the six issues collected here are drawn by Ben Oliver but issue #4 was all Chris Cross, who went un-credited on the TPB’s cover. Oliver’s style is so photo-realistic that it’s breathtaking, but there’s so much emphasis on making the characters look true-to-life that the background suffers and in a book that’s #1 selling point is the Batman OF AFRICA, seeing page after page of non-existant backgrounds is quite a weakness. Most of the book looks like it takes place on an empty stage or in some sort of limbo.

Her’es brief rundown of the 6 issues included with this TPB:

The Cradle of Civilization

The best thing I can say is that initially I didn’t even consider reviewing “Batwing”, hell I didn’t even consider buying it. But after a week or two I flipped through it at the comic shop, liked the art and gave it a shot. Turns out that it’s pretty great first chapter both in story as well as art and it hooked me. Although the quality has been rather inconsistent and the book has yet to reach its full potential, “The Cradle of Civilization” still stands as a great debut issue and I gave it an 8/10.

First Blood

It’s a well-drawn chapter but it also features one of the most stupid moments of the whole series and the main character spends most of his time in bed. Not a whole lot happens and when it came out as a monthly floppy I gave it a 6/10 and when issue #3 came out and summed up everything from this issue in just a couple pages it was clear that “First Blood” could be skipped entirely.

We Have Blood on Our Hands

“We Have Blood on Our Hands” is the most visually impressive chapters and one of the most important story-wise because unlike the previous episode it really dives into David’s past and builds the mystery of The Kingdom even more. There’s a spectacular fight scene as well making this a very entertaining read that I gave a 7.5/10.

 Better at Terrible Things

Fill-in artist Chris Cross took over for this issue and his unique style while great for the story at hand disrupts the feel of the overall tradepaperback. It’s not a problem with the monthlies, but when a series is collected as a trade paperback it’s jarring and it makes for a less consistent read. Cross does well except for a few shots in which tears of agony look more like eyes squirting milk. It’s a real shame Ben Oliver couldn’t have handled this because it might be the most important chapter of the entire book and maybe the entire series so far! 7.5/10

Like a Nightmare Coming to Life

Batwing proves to be incapable of doing anything on his own and there are little to no backgrounds or sense of place and time whatsoever. I gave it a 3/10.

…I Am Happiest When At War

I appreciate the structure of beginning the book with a flash-forward to the end and then working our way up to that, I do. It works great most of the time I see it, but it doesn’t work very well here since it’s not really the ending. It was a flash-forward to 2 chapters BEFORE the conclusion and that’s a whole lot less impressive. This chapter also bugs me because it could have easily been the conclusion. EASILY. The only reason that the story doesn’t wrap is so we can get 2 extra chapters that feature cameos by Batman, Nightwing, and Robin so that those characters can be slapped on the cover to attract more readers. It proves that Batwing can’t carry his own book to me. And the other thing that I didn’t like about this issue was the depiction of the Great Pyramids as the typical cliche image we see in cartoons and on post-cards that’s totally deserted except for those ancient monuments when in reality there’s a Pizza Hut. I gave it a 5/10 as a monthly comic, but as the conclusion of a $15 dollar TPB it’s very disappointing.

Supplemental Material

A real snooze. It’s around 8 pages of early character and cover designs, none of which look that different from the final product and none of them have any commentary by Oliver to show us how he came up with the images or how he settled on which design he preferred, etc. etc. The most interesting bit of bonus material is the final shot which is Jim Lee’s original design for Batwing, but even that’s not anything special. I was really disappointed in the supplemental material.

Value

Weak value. Sure you’re getting six issues for $2.95 cheaper (not including tax) than you would have if you bought the floppies but the supplemental material is boring and you should’ve been given 8 issues, not 6. You’re two issues shy of the full story and I find that kind of unforgivable. Amazon is offering this book for $11.18 but even at that price I don’t think it’s worth it. You’re better off digging around through your comic shop’s back issues and finding the original monthlies or waiting for a better TPB that actually delivers all 8 chapters rather than leaving you with a cliffhanger right when you should be getting a conclusion.

Overall

Batwing’s first story could have been even better in the TPB format but this only collects the first 6 parts of the 8 part saga. The supplemental material is poor, a fill-in artist had to do the 4th chapter of the book which gives the TPB an inconsistent look, and frequent cameos by Batman make Batwing look inept–especially when the book “ends” without him ever resolving a single problem. This should have been a good book and a great opportunity to hook new readers, but without giving them a full story for their money, I don’t see how it can attract anyone with such a cheap cliffhanger. I suggest you give the single issues a shot but this TPB is so poorly assembled that I can’t recommend that you rush out and buy it.

SCORE: 4.5/10

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