Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by Eduardo Pansica and Júlio Ferreira
Release Date: April 3, 2013
Before we get to that question, let’s tie up the loose ends, because for all the teasers, that’s what Batwing #19 is really about. Sure, there’s a new face under the mask by the end of the issue — well, actually, there’s not, but we do find out who Bruce wants to put on the costume, and every indication is that the person would say yes, but no offer has actually been made yet — but 17 of the comic’s 20 pages are dedicated to giving David Zavimbe a dignified and honorable exit from his glowing suit of flying armor.
And it’s a slightly odd read if (like me) you haven’t been following Batwing over the past several months. One of the major obstacles that Zavimbe seems to face is that the wealth of his opponents and the corruption endemic in the local police (where Zavimbe also works) mean that many of the people Batwing fights are outside the reach of the law, and don’t feel particularly threatened by Batwing either. This is a potentially fascinating setup which, in the right hands, could draw from real social conditions in nations like the Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as link Batwing to Batman and the famously corrupt Gotham Police Department.
As it stands, however, in a single issue Batwing takes down an assassin, a serial killer, a corrupt businessman, and, um, some sort of a super villain in a flying fortress. In terms of closure, it’s all for the good, but it doesn’t exactly seem to fit the narrative of a character who is feeling stymied by his lack of impact.
So, in short, unless you really want to be a month ahead of the game, Batwing #19 might not be as good a jumping-in point for new readers as Batwing #20 promises to be. Without spoiling too much, the new Batwing does promise closer ties between the title’s continuing African/International setting and Gotham City — although the reveal probably won’t be as exciting as some of the speculation has been.
And what about the question of whether a poor man can be Batman? Sadly, we’ll have to leave it to the side, since the new Batwing doesn’t promise any particular insight. As much as we have to look forward to, and as pleased as I am that Batwing is getting a new direction rather than simply facing cancellation, my one regret might be that Nightrunner, a character who explicitly addresses issues of class, ethnic, and religious tension, is still on the bench.
But, happily, it’s not an either/or world. With the sort of support DC is giving Batwing, as well as the newest Green Lantern, Simon Baz, maybe the return of a character like Nightrunner isn’t too much to hope for. He’d be a great supporting character in a revamped Batwing series with an increased international focus. Something like the title that starts in earnest next month.
See the problem is that while Batwing “takes down” these criminals, they aren’t really taken down. He just beats them up, but he KNOWS he can’t make it stick and that they’ll REALLY be gone. The line that really struck me was when David wanted to kill the serial killer, but couldn’t because it would disrespect the suit. THAT’s the problem for David. He wants to kill, he wants to punish people, but the Bat system doesn’t allow him to do that in a society that is so fundamentally corrupt.
The OTHER problem with David as Batwing is, as someone who read a few issues of the previous serious, that he felt too much like Bruce Wayne. Even with his different background and different experiences, he still acted like Bruce. And Winick made it very clear that Tanisha, David’s South African city, was a parallel to Gotham even while trying to make it not Gotham.