By: Judd Winick (writer), Ben Oliver (artist), Brian Reber (colorist)

The Story: Now seems right to make a politically incorrect joke about the Darker Knight, yes?

The Review: With all the other Batman analogues in existence, some of whom have been around (admittedly in obscure capacities) for decades, and others newly created and featured in Batman Incorporated, you have to wonder why Batwing, of all people, gets his own solo title.  Having appeared only briefly in #5, he certainly had no time to show much personality, much less develop a following.  Thus are the vagaries of the comics publishing business.

Not to say the Batman of Africa isn’t worth knowing.  As a police officer in his day hours, David Zavimbe uses his nighttime vigilantism to find cases and gather evidence for his department, rather than step on their toes.  They need all the help they can get; besides the usual troubles they face as cops in an underdeveloped country, there’s a hot streak of corruption among them, and for all his Wayne-funded resources, David can only hope they work it out on their own.

In contrast to his intriguing “civilian” life, Batwing’s heroic efforts come off mostly vague and formulaic.  The plot revolves around a villain named, straightforwardly enough, Massacre, who is even more shallow and unsubtle than Genocide, the name-says-all villainess Gail Simone created on Wonder Woman.  Thus far, Massacre lives up to his moniker.  Let’s count on some appreciable motive to pop up soon, before he falls into caricature territory.

One neat little dimension to Massacre’s killings involve the murder of the man who was Earth Strike, a founding member of the Kingdom, Africa’s first, premier team of superheroes.  As DC has lately insisted its support for diversity in their universe, you have to commend Winick for living up to the mission.  Both China’s Great Ten and Japan’s Super Young Team failed to gain much traction.  Perhaps Winick can beat the trend as he further develops the Kingdom’s history.

Winick should also pay attention to developing a strong supporting cast.  Fellow cop Kia Okuru mostly dispenses information (which David left for her anyway), and Matu Ba, presumably Batwing’s Alfred, appears mostly to hype up David’s qualifications: “You’ve gotten very good at this, very quickly.  True genius is the ability to learn at a greater velocity.”  Don’t even ask why Batman’s around.  He gets all of two panels, and does nothing to push the story forward.

Even though the issue drags its heels, at least it takes us to a rather high-stakes ender, getting very ugly for David, very fast.  Unfortunately, Winick pretty much defeats the tension of the scene by starting the issue six weeks into the future, rendering any possible suspense moot.  Still, you got to admire the writer for placing his protagonist squarely into major peril from the start.

Oliver’s art certainly has a tasteful realism, giving each character distinctive, identifiable features even out of costume.  He has a habit of putting a lot of focus on a few foreground elements and leaving the rest of the backgrounds a bit blank, which gives a sparse look to the issue, but isn’t exactly unsuitable.  Reber provides an eerie, gritty palette which plays up the action-drama elements to the title.  You know instantly that no one’s here to fool around.

Conclusion: Winick offers a fertile premise and some promising ideas, but all rather too underdeveloped to really predict if it’ll turn out worthwhile or not.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Please let’s not turn the bald, older black dude with an eye-patch into a thing, alright?  Black people already have enough weird stereotypes to deal with.

– Let’s give credit where it’s due.  Clearly, I’ve never seen this many freshly severed heads in one issue before.  That’s got to be some kind of record, right?