Batwing #32 by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Eduardo Pansica is the only Batman comic I need.
Batwing has been a really strong comic, and I’m really sad to see it end soon. It is pretty explicitly Batman Beyond starring a young black man instead of a young white man. There’s a snazzy tech heavy Bat-suit, Bruce Wayne acts as an older mentor to this young new guy who has his own family situation going on outside of the Bat-plots (but with his father being Lucius Fox, Batman’s Bat-tech inventor, it’s not too far removed from Batman), and there is even an unfinished Batman Beyond suit in Batwing’s Bat-lab bunker! It’s a shame that a comic that is so heavily inspired by such a popular version of Batman, focuses heavily on a black family, and is just generally really well put together is coming to an end.
I’ve found Batwing to be strongest when Batwing is going out on globe trotting missions. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case for the last several issues. It’s been set back in Gotham and has featured a huge underground city that is easily discoverable through a quick use of the Bat-detective vision from the Arkham games. Somehow Batman doesn’t know about this place, which I find pretty hard to believe. The villain of the piece has been a frankly ridiculous guy who was a friend of Batwing when he was in high school. The fairly light tone of the book was rocked by an out of nowhere horrific family tragedy. This seemed like it was going to be the last issue of the story line, and I was worried that this book was going to ride its last three issues out on a low note.
I can’t speak for the final two yet, but this issue totally pulled me back in and restored my faith. The unimpressive villain who seemed like he was about to strike back after being defeated at the end of last issue is nowhere to be seen, Batwing scores a much needed personal victory after several downer issues. There are some great family bonding moments, and an interesting conflict with Batman himself has been set up at the end.
Pansica does a really attractive, competent version of the current DC house style. I especially liked the scene at the beginning where a bad guy talks to and controls rats is chasing Batwing’s little sister through the underground city. More and more rats swarm forward on each panel as they give chase. At one point, she climbs a ladder and the rat guy stands underneath her and the rats start to encircle him. In the next panel those circling rats have formed a tower that is lifting him up so he can reach the littler girl. It’s a really cool short sequence. Another great sequence immediately follows where Batwing is waiting at the top of the ladder, partially obscured by shadows, calling out for his sister to take his hand before the encroaching bad guys get to them. She won’t come to him. She’s never heard of him before, is scared of Batman and the situation she has been in, and doesn’t know that he is her brother, and the shadows covering Batwing do an excellent job of representing that fear and mistrust.
There are lot’s of neat little touches throughout the book. This is more of a general compliment to the book, but I think Batwing’s single glowing Bat-symbol on his chest is a really tasteful way to include the glowing bits that are popular in modern super hero costume design without overdoing it. Another thing I like about the overall art direction in this series is the use of kicks. Most super hero fights tend to be punch or flying kick focused, but Batwing often does grounded kicks to his opponents. It’s a nice way to make his fighting style distinctive. In particular to this issue there is another sequence I liked a lot where Lucius Fox is sitting in his office looking out over the city thinking about his kidnapped daughter. The panels close in closer and closer on his face and you see first the city reflected in his glasses and then his baby daughter reflected in his eyes. It’s a really well done moment.
A couple of pages take place in a large, mostly empty Catholic church with huge beams of light streaming in through the window. It makes a great contrast to the previous issues which have taken place in a dark, closed in underground city and really sets a more hopefully mood. This sense of hopefulness has been missing for the last few issues, butcan be found in the rest of this issue and is one of the things that made me enjoy this issue so much. After being in a sewer for so long getting back above ground feels fresh. It’s also kind of interesting to see a super hero directly addressing his faith, since most don’t tend to be particularly overtly religious. He has taken his other sister, the one who is now brain dead thanks to the events of the last few issues, to the church, hoping it will help her, but also because he needs to talk to God. His faith has been shaken. He doesn’t understand why such horrible monsters exist. He wants some sign, some sort of hope. The very next scene is him kicking the heads of a bunch of bikers who are terrorizing a family in a car. He doesn’t understand what’s happening in his life, but he still knows he’s got to get out and do what’s right, even if the world doesn’t make any sense. That’s the sign of a classic, compelling hero.
There’s only a few complaints I really have with this issue, and one of them is more of a weird editing mistake. There’s the scene I mentioned of Batwing trying to get his sister to reach out to him. Then it cuts to the other scene I mentioned of Lucius thinking about his daughter. The caption says “meanwhile.” That scene ends with Lucius being told that his daughter is safe at the hospital. It then flashes back to how Batwing actually rescues her. How can she be still running from Batwing if “meanwhile” she is safe at the hospital? Speaking of the child in the hospital, the kid’s head looks kind of strange in a couple of panels. Children are tough to get right, and Pansica doesn’t quite manage it in a few instances here.
In the scene I talked about where Batwing saves a family in a car, a young boy in the car keeps calling him Batman, even though he corrects him. If Bruce Wayne were to keel over and die in Batman Eternal #10 and Batwing stepped up to take his place as Batman, that would be a comic I would have no qualms about reading. Gray and Palmiotti’s Luke Fox, Batwing, is all the Batman I need.
Pick up this comic if you like Batman Beyond, big kicks, sleek designs, or super hero comics with diversity.