The final four titles in the Batman group of DC’s New 52:
Trying to bring some racial diversity to the mix, DC is promoting Batwing from its obscure beginnings earlier in 2011 as part of the Batman Incorporated storyline to its own book. Batwing is billed as Africa’s Batman. That’s like saying Batman is North America’s Batman. Africa is not a country! Actually reading the story, we find that Batwing is David Zavimbi, a police officer in the fictional city of Tinasha within the real Democratic Republic of Congo (the large central African country formerly known as Zaire). Batwing uses a technologically advanced bat-suit provided by Batman that, among other things, has wings that enable him to fly. Batwing’s first nemesis is a villain called Massacre who lives up to his name by decapitating a bunch of policemen. Judd Winick’s script is nothing special, but Ben Oliver’s artwork is noteworthy for its realistic styling and absence of exaggerated superhero poses. I commend DC for giving this title a try, but will be surprised if it lasts.
Batman is arguably DC’s biggest star, so it makes sense to add this third title to the core Batman and Detective Comics. The question is, will it be different enough from its older siblings for anyone to care? Based on the first issue, I can say that it’s definitely different, but I’m not sure too many will care. Writer Paul Jenkins, along with penciller/co-plotter David Finch, pen a gritty, action-packed opener with an emphasis on the bizarre residents in Arkham Asylum. They don’t forget to round out the story with some secret identity hijinks. Inker Richard Friend keeps the shenanigans literally in the dark. The book ends with a Hulked-out Two-Face popping out, signaling that this book will not be taking itself too seriously. If you like your Batman as a dark demon hunter, this is the book for you; otherwise, I’d stick with the other two, immensely superior, Bat-books.
This version of Batman appears to take place in the present, as opposed to the Batman in Detective Comics who appears to be at least a few years younger and less accepted by Gotham City police. At least this Batman is getting coöperation from Sgt. Bullock as they look into a grisly killing. Overall, veteran Bat-scribe Scott Snyder nails the right combination of action and mystery that classic Batman stories need. Artists Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion offer a richly compelling look that reflects the mood of the story—a bit lighter for Bruce Wayne, a bit darker for Batman. The most interesting part of the story for me, however, was a panel showing Bruce and three of his wards getting ready to attend a black-tie party. The captions for Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, and Damian Wayne indicated “Access Level: High.” A few panels later, Alfred Pennyworth’s caption indicated “Access Level: Highest.” A subtle indication that Batman’s ultimate trust is hard-won, indeed.
Detective Comics is arguably the flagship of DC publishing; after all, it’s where their star character got his start and it gave the company its name. So a lot is on the line. Writer/artist Tony S. Daniel (with inks by Ryan Winn) doesn’t exactly hit a home run, but this dark, mysterious Batman is quite readable. It features the most “what the heck is that” cliffhanger, as a truly psychotic Joker comes to town. Don’t expect Detective Comics to break too much new ground, but it should more than satisfy fans’ Batman cravings.