Mon
Jun 27 2011 5:03pm

Reader’s Guide to the New DC Universe: Batwing

Batwing relaunchEach weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: BATWING!

The Concept and Characters: Unlike most of the DCU relaunches, which are reinvigorated properties or brand-new spins on old characters, this series features a character who appeared for the first time in the spring of 2011, as part of Bruce Wayne’s “Batman, Incorporated” global concept.

Batwing is David Zavimbi, Africa’s Batman, and he’s only appeared in a few issues of Grant Morrison’s Batman, Inc. and hasn’t played a featured role in any of them. The most interesting thing about the character is that his costume is based on a throw-away gag from 1973’s Batman #250, in a story called “The Batman Nobody Knows” by Frank Robbins and Dick Giordano. In that story (which was later the basis for an episode of Batman: The Animated Series AND a segment from the lite-anime Batman: Gotham Knight direct-to-video anthology), various citizens recount their versions of Batman, each with a radically different perspective. One young man describes Batman as a blaxploitation action hero, a “down-to-earth hip-dude” who is “Muhammed Ali—Jim Brown—Shaft—an’ Super-Fly all rolled into one!”

Sadly, neither of the animated variations on this story included these lines of dialogue, and this new DCU version of Batwing will undoubtedly take a more serious approach to patrolling the streets. Of Africa.

The Creative Team: Writer Judd Winick, formerly of MTV’s Real World fame, but more recently of writing-mostly-mediocre-comics fame, has a history of jamming weird tonal shifts into his stories, or subverting moments of high drama with surprise potty humor, but, lately, his comics from Justice League: Generation Lost to Batman and Robin have been far more consistently entertaining than his earlier work-for-hire gigs. Still, even with his extensive experience in the DC Universe, he has yet to prove himself as a writer worth seeking out.

Artist Ben Oliver is more noteworthy, with his grounded realism and ability to convey a sense of physical danger for the characters without the generic superhero exaggeration you tend to see in, well, most any mainstream comics ever drawn. Oliver is quite good, though his lack of flash might turn off those who merely flip through his comics.

Recommendation: Skip it. Oliver is worth checking out, but Winick hasn’t established himself as a substantial enough writer to make Batman-in-Africa-with-a-funny-costume anything more than a log line. I appreciate that DC is giving us a new lead character to follow, and putting the spotlight on a new member of the Batman Family, but without a stronger writer, I just don’t have any interest.


Tim Callahan writes about comics for Tor.com, Comic Book Resources, Back Issue magazine, and his own Geniusboy Firemelon blog.

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6 comments
Peter Tijger
1. Peter-Tijger
Reading this, I'm so glad I'm not into comics anymore.....
I have read what Dc is doing right now and it totally sucks. Some 5 years ago I was still heavily buying comics and Dc had the upper hand. But this whole overhaul.......yuck!
rob mcCathy
2. roblewmac
i'm curious but knowing how preachy it will be well...
jonmwilson1979
3. jonmwilson1979
I saw some good stuff at SDCC about this book. I was getting it for Bat-completism's sake, but now I'm looking forward to a very different kind of character built on a familiar motif.
jonmwilson1979
4. Jim Kosmicki
I'm not sure what the politics of the DCU Africa will be, especially after the Grodd Flashpoint special, but if they follow the leads of the last three Wild Cards books (especially Suicide Kings), this could be interesting. Those three Wild Cards books convinced me that a superhero book set in Africa can definitely work, but it probably will need to deal with the social and cultural issues there, and I'm not sure that superhero fanboys want to actually think or learn something different with their fantasies.
jonmwilson1979
5. Alger Newberry
It seems no one read "Batman: Under the Hood." An interesting little yarn that established a new persona for a historically displaced character, Jason Todd, killed famously in "Death in the Family" and brought back by a "writing-mostly-mediocre-comics" writer through a very ingenious technicallity in the reality shift of "Infinite Crisis." That aforementioned persona, Red Hood, is pretty mediocre, I know. Its not like he was used by someone like Grant Morrison a few times. No not Red Hood. He's too minor a character. Its not like he was involved integrally in "Battle for the Cowl." Of course not. He's of no consequence. And certainly the man who wrote him has to be as weak as his creation. Bush league. I mean what does the Red Hood bring to the Batman titles anyway? Certainly not a sense of moral ambiguity and a dark mirror of Batman's influence over those closest to him. No that's just silly. Definitely not a compelling anti-hero. And I know that he doesn't keep popping up in the DC Universe: not in "Countdown", "Battle for the Cowl", "Batman and Robin" twice, or an upcoming DC project. Yeah, what has Judd Winick ever done that was worth reading? Excellent question, sir.
jonmwilson1979
6. Sfalpharyu
I disagree. Don't skip it. Pick it up and read it, see for yourself. In my opinion it is definitely worth a read and a good read at that. Introduces what can be a strong character in the bat family. Although it could also turn out bad but at this moment the first 2 issues are great :D people should def read it.

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