Each 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.