DC’s New 52 continues to break new ground in the search for new audiences, even in the highly popular Batman line of comics.  So it was no surprise to see Batwoman among the new titles, and while somewhat controversial, the return of  healthy Barbara Gordan in a new Batgirl series, but who could have expected Batwing, the Batman Incorporated team member from Africa to get his own ongoing series?  After all, he has only appeared in a couple of comics, and we know so little about him. Will readers care about this latest member of the every growing  Bat-franchise?

The short answer is, “They should.”

So, who is Batwing?   Turns out he’s David Zavimbe,an member of the police force in one of the most dangerous cities in  the Democratic Republic of Congo, and he has been chosen by Batman to help bring justice to the streets.  Now the city of Tinasha where Zavimbe is based is not quite Gotham.   This a place where until recently, children were kidnapped and turned into weapons in a bloody civil war, given AK 47′s and meth.  A city where men who call themselves warlords pay cops to look the other way, when they don’t just kill them. (So maybe it’s not that different from Gotham.)

Judd Winick (Batman, Justice League:Generation Lost) is no stranger to the Batman family, and here he creates a character that fits right into that world of capes and cowls, as well as the war ravaged streets of Congo’s slums.  Winick right away points out that the criminals of Tinasha have seen some pretty horrible things, and that it will take more than just a guy dressed as a bat to scare them. Batman’s answer for that? “Sell it.” 

Right from the get go, Batwing finds himself in the thick of the fight.  His foe is Massacre, a machete wielding psycho who only wants to bring pain and death.   By the time Batwing catches up to him, (in Egypt, if the Pyramids below them are any indication) Massacre has already butchered a whole gang of drug dealers, and among them is found the wallet of Dede Yaboah, a member of the government, an agricultural minister.  Was he one of Massacre’s victims?  What was he doing with a pack of drug dealers and worse?  And why does he have a sealed military file?

you just have to sell it

Batwing drops in.

It turns out that he was a member of The Kingdom. What was the Kingdom?   It turns out they were Africa’s answer to the Justice League, and they were instrumental to bringing an end to the revolution and bringing a peace to the Congo. And then they disappeared.  Just like that Winick opens whole new mystery.  What happened to Africa’s heroes?

Ben Oliver (The Authority, Ultimate X-Men)has the task of  visually creating the very real world in which Batwing takes place in, Urban Aftica.  This is not the Jungles of Gorilla City, which is usually the most we see of Africa in a DC Comic.  This is a world that I doubt many of comic readers have experienced first hand.  Oliver does a fine job of creating and populating this world in a realistic way.  The pages of Batwing are gorgeously rendered, Oliver along with colorist, Brian Reber, create a place and a look unique in the world of Batman and DC comics.   They don’t just draw a Gotham City squad room in Africa.

Can the Bat-Neophyte stand out among the New 52?  Will he appeal to new readers and old Batfans?  Can Winick and Oliver keep him fresh and interesting?   I hope so.  Things are starting out strong, here’s looking forward to what’s to come.

a $2.99 comic, 32 pgs
(w) Judd Winick (a) Ben Oliver