This is the finale of the first story arc of ‘Batwing.’ Quite a lot is riding on this particular issue! While guest-stars Batman, Robin, and Nightwing battle the armor of former Kingdom member Steelback, counseled by the real Steelback himself, Daniel Balogun, via radio, Batwing finally has his long-in-the-coming confrontation with Massacre, the killer responsible for the deaths of almost all of the rest of The Kingdom. Previously, Batwing had deduced that Massacre was warlord General Keita, the man who had taken both David (Batwing’s alter ego) and his brother Isaac in as boys and made them efficient killers in his army, before seemingly killing Isaac. David declares, amid the battle, “I know who you are! General Keita!” This angers Massacre. Oops! Wrong guess, Batwing!
No, Massacre is really David’s brother, Isaac. Yeah, I saw it coming too.
Anyway, The Bat Squad depower the rampaging Steelback armor, but accidentally set off it’s self destruct command. Batwing mutters his brother’s name and he reacts, “How do you know my name? How do you know my name?!… Who are you?!” Before Batwing can respond, the facility explodes!
A tad later, Batwing confronts Josiah Kone, not an official member of The Kingdom, but their adviser, the man who built their fantastic headquarters, gave some of them their devices (including Steelback) and costumes. He is angered about the decision revealed last issue, that they made a deal with Masika Okura that allowed him to escape and for 50,000 freedom fighters to die. He is also the Redeemer, the man who found a starving, wounded Isaac, took him in and programmed him to becoming Massacre. Batwing dangles Kone out of a broken window and Kone asks if he will drop him, before Batman (in an unsatisfying move) steps in and says “No.”
Batman later tries to console Batwing and reveals that Massacre’s remains were not found and that he somehow escaped. The book ends with a flashback to David and Isaac as boy assassins, talking about their parents.
I was dissatisfied with the previous issue and that dissatisfaction carries over here. I saw Massacre-turning-out-to-be-Isaac coming a mile away. An obvious twist that was already employed in Batwoman’s run on ‘Detective Comics.’ Her arch foe Alice turned out to be her sister Beth. Now Massacre turns out to be Batwing’s brother, similarly twisted and brainwashed into becoming a villain. You’d think someone in editorial would have thought about this and pointed it out before letting it be used as Batwing’s kick-off story. I mean, it’s not like these were from two different companies and the creators involved might have been ignorant of this story development. These are both DC… both BAT Books. No one thought, “Wait, where have I already seen this? Oh in this other book that WE published.”
That aside, this story was well-written. I enjoyed the earlier issues more than the last two. None of that has to do with the art. Dustin Nguyen does a great job here! (I still miss Ben Oliver’s lush, painterly style on the earlier issues, but that isn’t a slight to Nguyen who does a fine job.) Perhaps it was too spread out, over too many issues. I find that’s a common problem with modern comics. I just read some Golden Age stories, where you had an entire story told from start to finish in a matter of like eight pages and nowadays, it takes eight entire issues to get a complete tale. This was a good story. I hate to be so harsh about it, but I guess it’s kinda my job.
Overall, if you passed on this book for any reason, grab the trade, because it’s a good read. The art isn’t consistent, but if you can get over it, it’s still fine. But this issue wasn’t up to the level of quality that earlier issue of this series were, so for that reason alone, I’m voting…
Written by Judd Winick
Art by Dustin Nguyen
Cover by Ken Lashley with Brian Reber