tmp_batwing_29_cover_2014-1086982275So I haven’t written about Batwing for a while. Even though it has remained on my pull list, I had kinda tuned out of Batwing for a while. It survived my first cut of books from the initial New 52, unlike real stinkers like Hawk & Dove and The Savage Hawkman, and it never really got bad, but the whole former child soldier of African warlords angle never clicked all that well with me. Not because it was badly executed, but because it always reminded me of Joshua Dysart’s The Unknown Soldier, and that was a comparison that, when it comes to harrowing drama, a book about a guy in a Bat suit was going to lose.

Since writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti took the book over, those issues have vanished. We’ve got a different guy in the Batwing suit, a Batwing suit that is basically the Batman Beyond suit, and we’re back in Gotham City, giving us a little distance from the whole Batman Incorporated conceit that almost forced the international feel. And what we wind up with is a version of Batman Beyond, with a young, brash guy being mentored by Batman in the most dangerous city in the world. And that works for me; I don’t have an original Bruce Timm Batman Beyond sketch and the Batman Beyond Black And White statue on my mantle because I don’t like that kind of story.

And in Batwing #29, Gray and Palmiotti put together a mix of tones that is a little weird, but generally pretty fun. There is urban horror and real terrible stakes to what’s happening to Luke Fox and his family, horror befitting a modern Batman family comic. And yet it is tempered with big, silly comic book-y ideas, like an unknown underground city beneath Gotham, populated with homeless geeks in Egyptian costumes and giant monsters. It’s a weird mix, but it generally worked for me, and I found it really pretty entertaining.

Provided I turned some parts of my brain off.

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dc_comics_logo_2013It has been 17 months since DC blew up their entire line of comics, shuffled all their creators around to different books, and blew up their entire history of continuity. You know, for everyone except Grant Morrison, who has been allowed to continue his Batman saga that started several years ago in Batman Incorporated like it’s still 2009… or sometimes, considering all the Silver Age characters Morrison’s shoveled into that storyline, like it’s still 1959.

And the New 52 reboot was an unqualified success. It put DC over Marvel, in both sales numbers and dollar earnings, for the first time. It refreshed the classic characters of the DC Universe for a new generation. Truly, those 52 books signalled the start of a thousand-year uncontested reign. Nothing could stop them. They would march to victory on a road of bones. They would drive their enemies before them, see them broken, and hear the lamentations of…

What’s that? DC’s cancelling six more books?

Whoops.

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Batwing has been one of the weirder and more interesting books of the New 52. It leverages Grant Morrison’s Batman Incorporated concept – Bruce Wayne finances local Batman franchises around the world, possibly because Batman believes that Starbucks are a superstitious, cowardly lot – and uses it to answer a question that only a few comics have tried to address: if there are superheroes, why don’t they go after real scumbags in places that make Gotham City look like Metropolis after a massive federal grant to finance free beer for the sad?

In a nutshell, Batwing puts a version of Batman in the Congo, smack in the middle of one of those hellholes that have been at civil war for so long they call it Tuesday. Batwing didn’t lose his parents to a killer, he lost them to AIDS and was drafted by one of those tinpot shitsplat warlords who whip up armies of children because children haven’t learned to say “no,” or, “that’s wrong”, or “tinpot shitsplat dictator.” Or at least that haven’t learned to say that last one with the level of derision it deserves.

So instead of a Batman moved to fight crime based on seeing a murder during his childhood, we have one who is moved to fight crime after being a murderer during his childhood. And he’s doing it in a country so loaded with corruption and casual daily horrible crime that it really feels like it needs a Batman. Which is a cool concept, and it generally works… but for a book that packs an extra punch by being based in a truly horrible place in real life, it doesn’t meet the level of realism I’ve come to expect from a Batman comic… which sounds stupid, but bear with me.

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