Thursday, 19 December 2013

Batwing, Volume 2: In the Shadow of the Ancients Review (Judd Winick)

This time last year I was wading my way through New 52 Volume 1s while this year I’ve been going through a ton of Marvel NOW! Volume 1s, so I thought it’d make a nice break to go back to some of the New 52 titles I enjoyed and read the second volume. I’ve regretted doing this for a number of them – Justice League, Aquaman, Suicide Squad, Batgirl Volume 2s are all terrible – but I somehow thought Batwing would be good, after all Judd Winick’s a good writer! 

Nope! This one is down there with Suicide Squad Volume 2 as one of the worst New 52 titles I’ve read this year. 

Batwing aka David Zavimbe is the Batman of Africa. A tall order, given that the other Batmen are given territories like Japan, France and Argentina – countries – while poor David is given an entire continent to police! Anyway Bruce Wayne’s given him Iron Man armour that looks bat-like so he can rocket all over the place, so I guess that makes up for it…? Or so you would think because in the first half of this book, he’s not in Africa at all – he’s in Gotham! Why? I think it was done purely to have him take part in the Night of the Owls crossover event – it’s that cynical a choice. 

So Batwing fights Massacre whose real identity is revealed and it’s not shocking if you’ve been half awake to the story – Winick’s been telegraphing it for several issues at this point, throwing in flashbacks to David and his brother’s youth, before cutting back to Batwing and Massacre. 

After the Massacre storyline is quickly dealt with unsatisfactorily, we get the pointless Night of the Owls issue. I really don’t know why every Scott Snyder Batman storyline has to be its own Event but unfortunately that’s how it is. Night of the Owls, Death of the Family, and now Zero Year are all Event stories that suck in a dozen other titles for no reason other than to try to leech off of Snyder’s popularity. It’s a stupid choice and these issues sit awkwardly in the collected editions like it does here. 

We are back to Africa though in the second half of the book with Batwing taking on a group of hastily cobbled together “villains” led by a cartoon called Lord Battle (great name – did a 4 year old or Rob Liefeld come up with it?). And then the worst possible thing I can imagine happening in a DC book happens: Justice League International show up! 

I involuntarily dropped the book when I saw these clowns appear – the “superhero” with the magic hair and the Chinese “superhero” with the worst name ever *shudder*. It’s not fair, I purposely ignored this title but even when I try avoiding it, they won’t go away! You cancelled this series, DC, take the freakin’ hint! Nobody wants to read about these morons! 

The JLI are the lowest point in any book, a mark as good as placing a black spot in an old pirate’s hand, but their inclusion is indicative of a larger problem with this book: the overabundance of characters that smother Batwing. This is Batwing, not Batman Inc, not JLI – Batwing. Yet he’s constantly being overshadowed by these other characters. Nightwing, Damian, Batman, they all steal focus from Batwing who’s relegated to a supporting character in his own book. We learn nothing more about him here than we did in the first book because so much space is taken up with other characters. Get rid of them all, we’re reading a Batwing book because we want to read about Batwing! 

The book closes out with the zero issue telling us about how David Zavimbe became Batwing, which is an absolutely pointless issue because we already know why from the first book. 

Batwing Volume 2 has multiple problems: structurally it doesn’t make sense, with the non-sequitur Night of the Owls issue and the irrelevant zero issue, and the jumping about from America to Africa for no discernible reason. There are far too many supporting characters and not enough development of the main character, Batwing. None of the villains are interesting and are hastily-assembled arbitrary baddies for Batwing to fight. And there’s no story. Batwing is just pinging around with no purpose. No wonder the series got cancelled, it’s totally directionless and missing a storyline! 

I want to like Batwing but we’re not really given a reason to – he’s simply a forgettable Bat-themed superhero. The book should more accurately be called Batwing: In the Shadow of Better Superheroes! The curse of the New 52 has begun poisoning even their good titles in their Volume 2s!

Batwing Volume 2: In the Shadow of the Ancients

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