Last issue, new series writer Fabian Nicieza made great use of the world that Judd Winick had established. This issue, he builds on that world by adding a few new villains and we may even see some changes to the Batwing armor if the debut of Channel 52 news is any indicator.
I read this issue and the last with my finger on the button. I was very ready to drop this series from the review rotation but issue #16 was quite captivating and this issue cranks up the intensity even more. David is really getting hit on all sides. When his boss isn’t forcing him behind a desk, his coworkers are trying to gun him down every time his back is turned, Kia won’t support him in his crusade to clean up the department either so he’s all alone out there. As Batwing he still has Matu helping him out but even the Alfred of Africa is in trouble in this issue and Batwing himself is being hunted by a group of mercenaries with far better tech than what Batman Inc. can supply. An impossible situation makes for an interesting and memorable read but most importantly it adds credibility to Batwing as a hero. One of my main criticisms about Winick’s run was that Batwing always needed to be bailed out by the Bat family or Justice League International. Here he’s on his own and seeing him struggle to overcome these obstacles makes me like him all the more.
This issue contains far more action than the previous installment. In fact, the opening page begins with guns blazing as we’re introduced to the Sky Pirate. When I saw this character on the cover I was disheartened that we would be getting another ridiculous villain that doesn’t fit the story being told– that’s not the case. Not only do I like his design, he makes a pretty great foil for Batwing. He’s evil-Batwing essentially, an assassin with far, far, FAR better gadgets than our hero and it’s going to take some major upgrades to fight him off in upcoming comics. If you read the Channel 52 segment, which is at the back of almost every New 52 comic this month, you’ll see Ambush Bug telling a story about how Batman Incorporated may have an all-new Batwing soon. Is this a reference to David getting the necessary upgrades? I think so. Perhaps he’ll even get a helmet!
Speaking of the look of this book, I liked the art by Fabrizo Fiorentino for the most part. He was credited on the cover of the last book but didn’t actually draw any of the interiors so this is actually our first look at his take on Batwing. His version of Batwing isn’t noticeably different from other incarnations, but his David is! Whereas other artists have drawn David being a bit more svelte, Fabrizo’s is a big, muscular guy that I have a hard time seeing these scrawnier looking cops push around. I mean, the new David looks Luke Cage big. And while all the other characters look great and the action was drawn well, the pages lack enough detail in the background. This is especially noticeable in the scenes aboard Sky Pirate’s ship and Batwing’s base, The Haven. Each location is nothing more than a couple of computer monitors in front of blank walls. These are pretty boring visuals, but the lack of backgrounds has been a problem in this series ever since Oliver started things off with issue #1. The last art criticism I have is with the colors near the end of the book. David is assaulted by some villains who claim they can hardly see a thing but the colors used don’t reflect that sentiment at all. Not only is David well lit but he’s only a couple feet in front of their face. It strips the scene of its tension.
Batwing #17 is pretty solid. The new creative team is pushing the hero into more dangerous situations than ever before and building on the world established by Judd Winick beautifully. Over the past year I’ve gone from being on the fence about this book to being completely ready for its cancellation, but now I’m cautiously optimistic. I stuck around for this series’ new creative team out of curiosity, but now they have my attention.