Batwing Vol. 1: The Lost Kingdom by Judd Winick – Graphic Novel Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews the first graphic novel outing for Batwing, which sees Judd Winick handle an African member of the Bat-Family financed by Wayne Enterprises, published of course by DC Comics.
“A great and entertaining graphic novel that took me completley by surprise. I was not expecting Winick’s work to be this good.” ~The Founding Fields
Writer: Judd Winick | Art: Ben Oliver, Brian Reber, ChrisCross, Ryan Winn | Cover: Ben Oliver | Publisher: DC Comics | Collects: Batwing #1-6.
Okay. There are some superheroes/characters who have a widely renowned reputation for making certain famous cities, fictional or not – their resident stomping ground. Spiderman for instance, gets New York. It’d just feel odd to see Peter Parker web-slinging around in a countryside down in England, for example – wouldn’t it? Batman is another one of these characters who can’t really be removed from the current setting of Gotham City. So what if a writer wants to take the Dark Knight across the globe, to a place like – I don’t know, Africa?
Then you don’t. You simply just create a new version of the character and have him financed by the original character, in Batman/Batwing’s case. I don’t think that would work too well with Spiderman finacing a Spiderman in England, and I’m not really sure that anyone would want to read about a Spiderman in England, but you get my point.
And you can also see why I was a bit anxious about this title. But at the same time, I was curious. I’m a fan of mashups – heck, I enjoyed the film (to a certain extent) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. But a not-Batman Batman in Africa? How would that work? I mean, Africa’s a whole lot bigger than Gotham City, right?
But as it turned out, the first graphic novel in the new Batwing series, designed as a result of the New 52 reboot – certainly did work. And after the blurb, I’ll tell you why I enjoyed it as much as I did.
The first collection starring BATWING, the African-born hero introduced in the pages of BATMAN, INCORPORATED! • What can a soldier in service of Batman Incorporated do when he’s met his match in the murderous MASSACRE? • The past looms large as Batwing’s early days as a crime fighter come to light, gaining the attention of BATMAN.
The first important part to note about Batwing: The Lost Kingdom is whilst it’s a graphic novel, it’s clearly not a standalone graphic novel. Don’t expect the story-arc to wrap up by the sixth issue allowing the reader to move onto a new one in the seventh, which I found to be a bit frustrating – as this isn’t the only New 52 title where they’ve done this. Sure, The Court of Owls, the first Batman graphic novel for the New 52 was superb and I liked how it was told as in two parts, but I think that I prefer a standalone graphic novel story, particularly if I have to wait for the Night of Owls Trade Paperback to read the next adventures of Batwing, especially as I assume they won’t be covered in the second volume.
Whilst this is Batwing’s first lead title in comics history, it’s not the first time the character has appeared, as I found out whilst researching a few reviews prior to buying this book. He was first introduced in Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated storyline, but this book takes the reader through the lead character, David Zavimbe’s origin, and pits him against a brutal villain known as Massacre, who I sense could become what the Joker is to Batman, in a tale that will not only allow us a look into the character himself but also allow us to see the obligatory cameo of the Dark Knight, who plays a large role in Batwing: The Lost Kingdom despite the action being set (almost) entirely in Africa, and we even get an apperance from Bruce Wayne – when he’s not the Batman.
But let’s get this out of the way. If there are any doubters about this series or how entertaining it can be, read the first issue. Seriously. What a way to kick of the series, The Cradle of Civilization was a superb opener that set Batwing of to the start that the new character needed to survive when his turn in the spotlight would be clearly stacked against him, especially up against characters like Nightwing, Batgirl and Batwoman in the competition for who is the greatest member of the Bat-Family, but you know – I think Batwing’s in with a chance, particularly if the second volume is as good as the first. A Dark Horse.
The ending of the first issue is a spectacluar way to kickstart the graphic novel, prompting the question – how the hell is Batwing going to make it out of this cliffhanger? Now this is the sort of question that a reader needs to be thrown at the end of each issue, the question that will keep him/her turning the pages until the end of the book.
David Zavimbie’s character is an interesting one. He’s different from Bruce Wayne, and comes from a very different background. A child-soldier now serving as a member of the police force, and it’s interesting to see the amount of changes Winick has made to keep the character not sounding like a poor-man’s Batman. Batwing is his own person, and whilst he may even have his own Alfred, that character in particular is very different to the Alfred that is Bruce Wayne’s manservant – an ovbious starting point would be that he’s not even called Alfred.
The artwork is very strong in The Lost Kingdom as well, and Ben Oliver, the main artist, is on fine form with some great art across the pages – I love his portrayal of Batwing, and it really stands out against the darker tone that he’s set for the novel.
But Batwing is not without its flaws. As mentioned above, it’s not a standalone graphic novel, and I presume that readers are expected to be familiar with the whole Court of Owls saga that follows if they are to get any idea as to what’s going on in the upcoming issues. The dialogue isn’t always perfect, even though there are some standout moments like “I am a Monster”, it unfortunatley isn’t always that strong. The fifth issue of this story arc entitled Like a Nightmare Coming to Life is easily the worst out of the six, which is a shame that that book doesn’t have a strong consistency all the way through.
But it’s certainly a hell of a good read if you can put those flaws behind, and it proves to the reader that Batwing is essentially more than an excuse to put Batman in Africa.
The bonus content isn’t all that great though, so if you’re brought the individual issues then I suggest you don’t by the TPB as well. But if you haven’t brought the individual issues, or want to buy the TPB anyway, then I can put my recommondation behind it and I am really interested to see where the series goes in the future, particularly after Batwing’s stint in Gotham City.
Issues in The Lost Kingdom: The Cradle of Civilization, First Blood, We Have Blood on Our Hands, Better at Terrible Things, Like a Nightmare Coming to Life, ….I am Happiest When At War.