By: Judd Winick (writer), Ben Oliver (artist), Brian Reber (colorist)
The Story: When someone stabs you in the back like that, it just gets you right in the heart.
The Review: It’s pretty hard to develop a whole new superhero from scratch. Not only do you have all the usual personality, background, power set bits to weave into place, you also have to build their supporting players, rogues gallery, and surrounding world from the ground up. To do all this in a serial fiction medium, a writer has to work quickly and with purpose, ensuring each issue offers enough meat to tide the readers over from month to month.
Winick has an unfortunate habit of writing slow, decompressing a story to the point where each issue takes you only half a step further than before. When you take in his entire run on the now defunct Power Girl, he accomplished almost nothing worthy of note, with the titular star and her mythos virtually unchanged from when he started. And so it goes here, in Batwing. Everything you knew from last issue is left nearly untouched, forcing the storyline to stall in place.
Massacre seems hopelessly one-dimensional, a murderer whose only agenda is apparently to behead and decapitate any and every one he sees. The gruesome…massacre (if any of you groan at this sentence, I’d like to say that in my defense, the villain just has a pretty terrible name) of practically all of David’s police unit comes across pointlessly bloody, an over-the-top reward for their “attempt to investigate me.”
So you have no inclination to take Massacre seriously at all, even though he hints that he has good reason for cutting down the victims he does. He spatters his confrontation with Thunder Fall, formerly of the Kingdom, with all kinds of resentful barbs: “After all that you were and all that you’ve done… I know the truth! I know who you are! I know what you are! And it is time for you to finally pay!” But who cares when they’re spoken by an indistinguishing murderer?
And who cares what happens to the Kingdom when you have only the vaguest idea who they are and what their importance is to the story? You can appreciate their background as Africa’s first team of superheroes, but with no other information whatsoever, you can’t expect to develop much of an attachment to their fates. Winick does little to make them relatable, as most of Thunder Fall’s speech runs like this: “I have wisdom! I have power! I have God on my side!”
With both Kia put out of commission (off-panel, by the way) and David nursing a massive chest wound, the most interplay you get from the issue is Matu constantly admonishing David to stay in bed. And so, you have the three principal characters doing little more than ciphering the plot. It doesn’t help that Batman remains a distracting presence, despite never actually showing up, doing the groundwork David can’t, making Batwing seem redundant in the process
Oliver does fine work, at times very expressive stuff, but again, the painted quality of his work does little to make the action move, and at times its excessing posing doesn’t even make sense. Look at the shot of Massacre being blasted out the schoolhouse by Thunder Fall’s lightning, and it appears more like Massacre leaping out of his own accord.
Conclusion: Conceptually, the issue has a lot of merit, but the execution falls flat in almost every respect, making it very hard to distinguish itself among the many excellent Bat-titles already on the stands.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Has imagination become so fallow that no one can conceive of a black superhero with powers other than lightning generation? We have Storm, Black Lightning, Static Shock, Lightning (daughter of Black Lightning), and even Jakeem Thunder has an electric motif. Now we have Thunder Fall, who is pretty much Black Lightning in a pattern shirt.