Respect earned. It couldn’t have been easy to clean this mess up, but new writer Fabian Nicieza and fill-in artist Fabrizio Fiorentino pulled it off.
Judd Winick, who was the writer on Batwing from the very beginning, jumped ship before finishing the three part Father Lost arc leaving a new writer to pick up the pieces. To make matters worse, artist Marcus To wasn’t even going to come back and finish drawing the final chapter of this tale! So as you can see the odds were really stacked against this issue. It seems clear to me that the Father Lost story is one that nobody was passionate about telling. The original creative team saw it as a job that needed to be done and that’s that. But that’s not what readers want. Not me anyway. I want to buy a comic that the author and artist are in love with. A book that they would’ve fought to see through to its end. The Father Lost saga didn’t have that and giving a brand new creative team the task of not only wrapping things up but doing it all in a single issue? Wow. My hat is off to Fabian and Fabrizio.
I won’t say that this is a great comic or even a must-read nor does it salvage this mess of an arc. It’s just impressive that it wasn’t a complete train wreck. It’s like if you pushed someone into a kitchen and told them they had one hour to make a souffle and it didn’t turn out burned or runny. It’s not the best tasting thing in the world, but they did in fact make a souffle and that deserves some praise.
Mr. Nicieza not only tied up all the loose ends from the previous two issues, but he also set up some plotlines for future stories AND recapped much of Batwing’s past to turn this comic into a fairly good jumping-on point for new readers. As you can imagine, it moves at a very brisk pace. To conclude this in a satisfying way Nicieza uses flashbacks, hallucinations, every available character, and every available setting. We go to the hospital, the police department, the battle from the last issue, the streets of Tinasha, David’s childhood, Father Lost’s childhood, and Batwing’s own batcave as well. He packed a heck of a lot into a mere 20 pages and it was never difficult to follow. However, the problems of the first 2 parts of this story still remain as do some inherent problems with Batwing. It’s never clear what Father Lost was even trying to do or how his powers work. Batwing’s suit and his access to greater technology needs to be better explained. I want to know what exactly Batwing’s suit is equipped with so that we don’t have a Bat-Shark-Repellent scene in every issue where he presses a button and the perfect gadget (that we’ve never heard of before) for this situation appears. How did Matu get so good with technology? He’s able to throw together a brand new piece of equipment almost overnight…or was it sooner? The sense of time and place in Batwing is hard to peg down. I have no idea what sort of distance these characters have to cross. Where is the Haven (Batwing’s Batcave) in relation to the police department? This book needs more wide shots of the landscape and (more importantly) a map. Just one issue with a map of Tinasha so I know how spread out Batwing’s domain is. Speaking of the artwork I thought that Mr. Fiorentino did a alright job especially with laying out the pages. There’s so much crammed together here that it could’ve very easily became confusing. I also liked that he drew Batwing a bit bigger than previous artists so that the armor looks more formidable and it’s more believable for him to have so many weapons built into the suit. Some things I didn’t like were the wings, which would be outspread in one panel, folded the next, and then gone altogether in the next. Repeat. Are they flapping all the time? How does Batwing control them? I’m over-thinking it, aren’t I? I also found some of the mouths on the characters to be a bit odd. They reminded me of Neil Adams’ work on Batman Odyssey, which isn’t a good thing.
Overall, it’s a decent way to end a pretty lackluster arc but most importantly it’s a glimmer of hope for issues to come. If these guys are capable of making something serviceable on borrowed time and the worst ingredients then imagine what they can do when they are given room to tell a story all their own? Here’s hoping things continue to improve with the next arc. Otherwise, I can’t really see this series surviving the next wave of cuts.