Let me preface this by saying I’m not a fan of the whole Batman Inc. premise. The idea of Bruce Wayne franchising Batmen in other cities around the world doesn’t seem like a great idea since it’s never proven to be a winning formula for making Gotham safer (arguably Batman has made things worse) AND it draws attention to Bruce and all the innocent people around him. I also found it ridiculous that while there’s a Batman of Paris, Batman of Moscow, etc. Batwing would be the Batman of…Africa. A whole continent. And not just any continent either, but the one that’s in the absolute worst shape. It’s going to take a lot more than gadgets to solve the problems lying in the cradle of civilization.
The Review (Spoiler-free)
Taking all of that into account, it’s clear that I had low expectations and probably even wanted to hate this book. But I didn’t! It’s a great read with gorgeous artwork by Ben Oliver that’s totally worth the $2.99 cover price.
This is a very grim tale, too and DC did the book a disservice by marketing Batwing as “The Batman of Africa” since most folks, like me, found the idea of a lone non-super superhero patrolling the world’s 2nd largest land mass to be a bit, well…stupid. In fact, David Zamvimbi AKA Batwing is primarily cleaning up the streets of a fictional city in the very real Democratic Republic of Congo, but as you can imagine “The Batman of The Democratic Republic of Congo” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Judd Winick’s debut Batwing story is one told primarily in flashback and it works great for introducing a relatively unheard of character. Without becoming too overwhelming, Winick gives a small sampling of everything Batwing has to offer. In just 22 pages we get a glimpse of Batwing’s relationship with Batman, we meet Batwing’s arch-enemy, and we get some back story on David Zamvimbi’s civilian life and a bit of history regarding the superheroes of Africa’s past. This book does a fine job introducing the reader to Batwing and his world while setting up all the necessary ingredients for adventures to come. If you’re one of the many new/returning readers that DC is attracting with The New 52, then Batwing is definitely worth checking out but it’s far from perfect.
Does it become a bit derivative at times? Yes. Batwing has his own gadget-filled Batcave called the Haven and his own Alfred-like character staying there to help him out. And there are quite a few African clichés but they aren’t too distracting (yet). This is definitely a book that SHOULD be bad and it has every potential to turn into something awful in the future and get canceled, but for right now I’m staying on board. This book has a lot of potential to do some very original things, but it’s going to have to step away from the superhero formulas that the market is saturated with.