First thing’s first, Batwing’s suit is NOT pink and turquoise as it appeared in the promotional images of the cover for this issue. So everyone can calm down. No, Batwing’s suit of armor is gun metal gray and was gifted to him by Batman himself, who appears in a pointless supporting role in this comic pretty much just to entice people who might have passed on the book, were they not Batman completionists.
Batwing, like Animal Man, may end up being a sleeper hit. It was actually quite a good read! The story focuses on David Zavimbe, the only 100% honest cop in the corrupt African city of Tinasha. With the funding of Batman Inc. supplying his uniform and computer system, he is attempting to clean up this volatile crime-ridden city. (If you thought Bludhaven was dirty, you ain’t seen nothing yet.) The only other somewhat-honest officer on the force is Kia Okuru, who is still guilty of taking bribes.
The main plot involves a masked serial killer/vigilante named Massacre, who dismembers his multiple victims, leaving their limbs in piles and using their blood to scrawl messages on the walls of the murder scenes. Is it wrong to say these gruesome crime scenes are beautifully rendered? Ben Oliver’s photo-realistic work is just excellent and gives this book a truly rich painted feel. Credit must also be given to colorist, Brian Reber. This book really does look painted! And the earthy color scheme feels indicative of the title’s African setting.
Not only is the art rich, so is the story. It turns out that, while most of Massacre’s victims were criminals, one was Dede Yeboah, an Agricultural Attaché. Batwing, assisted by his assistant Matu Ba and Batman, discovers that Yeboah had a secret history as Earth Strike. Earth Strike was a super hero and part of “The Kingdom”, an African super hero team that arose shortly after the formation of the Justice League five years ago. Upon reading this, I was immediately captivated and wanted to learn more about this team! Earth Strike, unfortunately is the only one shown in full, the rest being shadowed out. I assume their identities will be unveiled over the course of this first story arc. Mainstream super hero comics are so U.S.A.-centered, it’s fascinating to think that other continents and nations would have just as rich a history with superheroes as North America. Unfortunately, if this issue’s story is any indication, I’m guessing things won’t go very smoothly for the other members of The Kingdom, at least if Massacre has anything to say about it.
The one story element I didn’t care for was the time jump. The book opens with Batwing and Massacre battling, but then jumps back to six weeks earlier. (And ends in a manner that one wonders how Batwing even managed to survive the ensuing six weeks.) It’s an unnecessary device. I don’t see the importance of the opening scene, although maybe when it’s all said and done, it will have more significance.
In all, a solid book! But a series starring, not only a minority character, but one set outside of the U.S., I do realize will be an underdog and will have to struggle for survival among the 52 onslaught. I personally thought this was a better read than the much-hyped ‘Batgirl’ so hopefully enough fans will talk this one up and get others on board, so that David Zavimbe will enjoy as rich a history as The Kingdom before him!
Written by Judd Winnick
Art by Ben Oliver
Cover by Oliver and Brian Reber