In the 2nd volume, DC’s failed attempt at creating their own version of Marvel’s Black Panther grew all the more desperate in his attempt to connect with readers. Major storylines were cast aside in exchange for trips to Gotham so that Batman could make more frequent cameos and hopefully boost sales. The Justice League International even made Batwing a member in the hope that increasing David Zavimbe’s exposure would make him more popular. Then came the sidestep from personal drama and a flesh and blood enemy to more fantastical foes with super powers, alien connections, and a few magical elements were thrown in as well because something had to work, right? It didn’t. The only thing left was to try and combine it all and that’s what the first story in this collection does, it mixes the personal drama of David’s life, magical voodoo, lightsabers, and real African turmoil altogether but the souffle still didn’t rise. Before that tale of “Father Lost” was even published its writer, Judd Winick, had announced that he would be leaving the title soon and with sales remaining low fans were certain that the book would be canceled, but something very surprising happened. Winick left and his replacement, Fabian Nicieza, gave us what was so obvious and so true all along: a hero that couldn’t connect. A hero who couldn’t handle it. And it worked.
Batwing, Vol. 3: Enemy of the State collects issues #13-18 of the New 52 series and while it begins as an utterly disappointing and wholly forgettable reunion between David and an old friend with a vendetta against a cultist, its failure made the Batwing’s swan song possible. Not enough people were reading the stories of David Zavimbe and DC wanted a complete overhaul of the comic instead of a total cancellation so Nicieza put Batwing’s struggles on the paper and it made for a more compelling read. It never becomes anything overly extraordinary, but it gave the book the kick in the pants it needed. What better way to set the comic apart than have it be about a hero who is buckling under the pressure? A hero with nothing to lose? A hero who is failing? Prior to the creative change I was giving Batwing scores as low as 4 and 4.5, but this new approach was earning 7.5/10s. The series started strong with a complex character in a unique environment, but once sales wavered the creators and their publisher apparently went into panic mode with shake-ups and gimmicks that ultimately led to a complete loss of identity that made the title an un-salvageable mess. Thankfully, watching Batwing’s world burn turned out to be one of his best stories.
It begins with corruption and gritty, street justice– the stuff that Bat-titles excel at. Then Nicieza focuses on Batwing as the tech-based hero he should have been. Let’s face it, he’s the only member of team Batman with what is essentially an Iron Man suit minus the helmet (don’t even get me started on his lack of helmet– the stupid character design is probably reason #1 why readers never gravitated to the title) so emphasizing the abilities of the advanced technology is what the book needed, not team-ups or magic or aliens. The book needed science! So our big villain in this story is also a tech-based character and it makes for a more compelling read that properly fits the profile of the Batwing world! Zavimbe’s downfall is then 2-fold: he’s being outdone through technology by this new baddie and he’s being worn down by the corruption of his civilian life as a police officer and, guess what? It becomes engaging to read! Never mind that the artwork is inconsistent (due to an ever-changing team), the degree of struggle on these pages is captivating and struggle and desire are the heart and soul of a good story. The problem is, however, that we get no ending!
David Zavimbe’s story comes to its exciting (and slightly frustrating due to the way he talks to Batman) conclusion in issue #19, which is not included in this collection. It’s such an aggravating decision made by the publisher and one that severely holds this book back from being truly worth buying. Had the “Father Lost” portion been relegated to Volume 2 and this book been made up of only Niceza’s entire finale up to #19 I would have gladly recommended that fans buy it at full price. As it stands, this book opens poorly, builds toward something great, and then leaves the reader hanging.
7 pages of sketches, page layouts, and early designs for certain characters. It’s alright. As usual, I wish that we could get some captions along with the images where the artists could comment a tad on their creative choices.
Value: Sale Price
It’s a decent comic, but not worth paying full price. The re-read value just isn’t there what with the first half being a waste of time (Judd Winick didn’t even finish his own 3-part arc) and the 2nd half not featuring its final chapter. If it were a movie I’d suggest picking it up as a rental or a very cheap matinee.
Had it been comprised of only Nicieza’s contribution AND included the pivotal issue #19 then I would’ve given this comic upwards of 7-7.5/10, but the first half can be skipped entirely and the 2nd half is missing a final chapter. It’s not a new reader friendly book for those curious about who David Zavimbe was and I suggest that long-time Batwing fans pick it up at a discount or dig around the local comic shop for issues #16-19 specifically. A real shame. There’s some good stuff here, but it’s poorly produced.