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

The Story: Obviously, Batwing never saw those anti-fighting after school specials as a kid.

The Review: In this age of the decompressed comic, writers tend to draft stories that work better within the trade format than the typical serial style.  This trend has opened up new avenues of storytelling choices, but mostly it’s resulted in watering down the substance of each monthly helping of any given title.  DC certainly hasn’t helped things by reducing the average page count to 20 pages, turning some titles into mere wisps of story, ending almost right after they begin.

Three issues into this series, and it still feels like we haven’t moved on from the debut.  The status quo, tension, and conflict remains pretty much the same as when they started: Massacre killing off a member of the Kingdom, and Batwing in critical condition.  It would help if Winick filled the space with some entertaining character work, but he continues to keep the supporting cast sparse and largely absent.  This issue, only Matu appears, just once—and as a silhouette.

We do get a couple interesting, new factoids about our protagonist.  Unlike his privileged counterpart from Gotham, David grew up as one of the infamous Congolese boy-soldiers, and a fairly hardcore one at that: “Every armed man in the village met with a quick death…”  An intriguing development, to be sure.  Now you have to wonder how David went from young gunner to upstanding man of the law to sworn member of Batman, Inc.

Keep in mind, however, that David didn’t shoot alone.  The revelation that David had a brother, one as equally fierce a child warrior, can only bode ill for the future.  You’ll notice that anytime a character has a family member who’s mysteriously out of the scene, when they reappear, it’ll usually be in the context of some shocking cliffhanger, most likely the revelation that they’ve been the villain or villainous the whole time (see Professor X’s brother, Cyclops and Havoc’s brother, Batgirl’s brother, and Batwoman’s sister).

Now, does this mean Massacre will turn out to be David’s brother, Isaac?  We can only hope Winick avoids that egregiously cliché scenario, but the prospects don’t look good.  The villain’s identity remains stubbornly vague, except for his ambiguous rages (“There is no saving him!  Thunder Fall has earned nothing but death!”).  If you’ll recall last issue, Massacre seemed a bit too interested in David’s battle spirit and, more significantly, he never saw David’s face.  So the portents are there, but perhaps Winick will surprise us all and throw us for a loop.

Despite the very convincing expressions Oliver brings to the characters, heightening the dramatic elements of every scene, there’s something vaguely dissatisfying about his work.  Maybe it’s his lack of variety.  Every panel seems to feature a close-up that gets ever closer until all you get is a contorted face.  This brings you into the action, but it’s also limits your POV stiflingly.  With the lack of backgrounds and bare-bones settings, you really have little to look at in each panel, so it becomes a bit monotonous as the issue goes on.

Conclusion: About the only things still recommending this title is redeemable writing and competent art, and that’s simply not enough for the long haul.  A shock to the pace is seriously needed for Batwing to stay off the Dropped List.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – It’s official: I sincerely dislike Batwing’s outfit.  It just looks ridiculously cumbersome, bulky, and garish.  And if that thing is made entirely of metal, as it appears, then David will just perish of heat stroke someday during a brutal Congo summer.