Previously on Batwing: Covering Issues #1-#10
Child Soldier (largely featured in Issue #4)
David Zavimbe's story begins eleven years ago when he was a soldier for the Warlord Keita in the Congo. David and his brother Isaac were two of Keita's most fearsome soldiers, known as the Dragonflies for their ferocity and stealth. One day Isaac refused to obey Keita's orders to assault a compound held by President Okura head on, saying that he and David could simply sneak in and kill him without extra casualties. When Keita refused, Isaac fired his weapon, giving away their position. Keita beat Isaac to death following the encounter, but David was able to get away before being murdered, as well. David later captured Keita, dragging him just outside Okura's camp and abandoning him there to face justice.
Massacre and the Kingdom (#1-#8)
David Zavimbe joins the Tinasha police department in the hopes of making The Democratic Republic of the Congo a safer place, but he realizes the police are too corrupt to be of any real help, so he turns to vigilantism. He comes into contact with Batman who sets him up with his own Batcomputer and a suit of armor in an attempt to aid David in his fight against crime by making him into the superhero Batwing. After testing out the armor by taking down some drug lords, David comes across a pile of bodies with a warning written in blood above them. He ensures the crime scene is found by the Tinasha PD, and the next day gets some more information as a police officer. Officer Kia Okuru shows David a wallet from the bodies belonging to Dede Yeboah (aka Earth Strike), a former member of the Kingdom, a retired group of all African heroes. After doing some further investigation, David returns to the precinct to find dozens of officers murdered. A masked man named Massacre comes out of the shadows and stabs David through the chest.
Kia returns with several other officers and drives Massacre away with gunfire, but not before Massacre injures several of them. David wakes up two weeks later under the care of his friend, Matu Ba, who assists David in his role as Batwing. When Matu refuses to let David get back to work, the wounded man drugs his friend and uses the Batcomputer to track down Massacre's next target, a member of the Kingdom named Thunder Fall, who is now working at a school house. Thunder Fall holds Massacre off while the children get to safety but loses an arm and is bleeding out by the time Batwing arrives. Still injured, Batwing is unable to take the killer down, but Thunder Fall pours enough power into Massacre to give them time to escape. Batwing rushes Thunder Fall to the hospital but is too late to save him. Before passing, Thunder Fall tells David the Kingdom is being targeted to make up for an atrocity they committed years ago during the Congo revolution when they killed 50,000 people.
Over the next two weeks, David continues to heal and hunt Massacre. He is too late to save Dawnfire but gets Batman in on the case when a former member of the Kingdom, Josiah Kone, is reopening the Kingdom's old headquarters, The Citadel, as a museum. Several men dressed like Massacre open fire in the crowd, driving the innocent off before detonating the building. In his Batwing armor, David manages to apprehend one of the terrorists and traces his phone back to Massacre who is currently in Giza, Egypt. Batwing quickly travels there and prevents Massacre from killing another member of the Kingdom, the hero formerly known as Steelback. A comment made by Masssacre, “We honor them all in blood,” is identical to one David learned from the Warlord Keita, and makes David suspect Massacre and Keita are one and the same.
Two members of the Kingdom, Staff and Razorwire, are in Gotham City, so Steelback, Batwing, and Batman head off to the States while allies of Batman search for them. Batgirl manages to locate the warehouse where the Kingdom members are hiding, but when Nightwing and Robin arrive, they find the place is under a laser attack. Both Razorwire and Staff are killed by none other than the Steelback armor with Massacre eagerly watching. Batwing arrives and assaults Massacre while the rest of the team uses Steelback's advice to take down his former armor. David rips away Massacre's mask and realizes that Massacre is none other than Isaac, his little brother he thought dead. The Steelback armor explodes and Massacre manages to get away. The bat family manage to track the Steelback armor's remote control signal to Josiah Kone, who was seeking revenge on the Kingdom for the sacrifices they made back during the revolution.
Night of Owls (#9)
David and Matu Ba travel to Gotham to have several upgrades made to Batwing's armor. While there, Lucius Fox takes David and Matu to a gala held for Batman, Inc., but the party soon heats up when a member of the Court of Owls, an assassin known as a Talon, lights the place on fire and attempts to murder Fox. David retrieves his armor and engages, but the Talon manages to keep healing any wounds he deals. Matu Ba receives Alfred's warning about the Court's attack on Gotham and passes on information about their weaknesses to cold and massive tissue damage to David, who promptly fires a rocket into each of the Talon's arms, severing them and taking out the Talon.
Dragons, Penguin, and Bats (#10-ongoing)
Batwing is busy cleaning up pirate activity by a group known as The Jackals when he comes across a captured Chinese nuclear scientist named Hui Deng. The boat explodes before Batwing can save him, but his presence leads Nightwing and Batwing to travel to China to look for further connections. There, they run into a group of Chinese thugs including a man called Long who is capable of turning into a dragon. Meanwhile, the Nigerian governor's mansion is bombed, killing many of Matu Ba's family members. Back in Gotham, it appears that all of this has been orchestrated by none other than the Batman foe, the Penguin.
To be continued . . .
The Kingdom: The concept behind this original African team of superheroes is incredibly cool, and their story unfolds over the first eight issues with each member of the team being met in turn. The end of their story is tragic, but I love that a history for heroes of other continents has been introduced, making Batwing feel as much a larger part of his section of the world as all the other heroes do for the United States.
Tinasha: The initial draw for me in Batwing was the idea of it being set in another nation and while Batwing is still considered the “Batman of Africa” that's the same as saying Batman protects all of North America. Batwing's home is in Tinasha, a city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and this setting feels familiar enough to understand but exotic enough to add a freshness the other Bat titles don't have from being cooped up together in Gotham.
Ben Oliver Art: Featured in several early Batwing stories (Issues #1-3, and 5-6), Oliver's art is a photorealistic style that captures the eye and really made Batwing look unique from the other titles out there. Sadly, Oliver does not stick with the title, but when he did it really gave me something to look forward to in every issue, something that only the art of Batwoman has been able to equal so far.
Massacre: Don't get me wrong, Massacre is a fine villain, and the first of the Congo/Africa specific characters we meet. Violent, dangerous, and with a personal mission, the character made a worthy foe. My problem comes from the cliché that Massacre is Isaac Zavimbe, David's brother. This is just too easy. The moment I knew Isaac existed, I knew he was Massacre back in Issue #3. I'm also not a fan of how he was introduced as the first and so far only African supervillain.
Batwing or Batman, Inc.?: I'm not a huge fan of crossovers, and Batman and the Bat family are featured a lot in Batwing. Some issues, such as the Court of Owls tie-in, make sense, but now I want Batman, Nightwing, and the others to go home and let David have his chance in the spotlight. If Batwing would stop tying plot arcs to Gotham City and let Batwing be in Tinasha and deal with stories there, it would be a more interesting and fresh title.
Rotating Artists: Ben Oliver's art won me over, but he's only in charge of Issues #1-3 and 5-6. His photorealistic style was replaced by some terrible art in Issue #4 and merely adequate art in #7-10. What I really wish is that Batwing would get an artist to stay on the title for more than a handful of issues, so I can stop guessing whether the art inside is going to be amazing or terrible.
Massacre: While his reveal was cliché, I'm glad Massacre is still around to return at a later date. He was a ferocious foe for Batwing, and the fact that these two are brothers only means their rematch will be even more epic.
Tinasha PD Corruption: The police David works with are a corrupt group of individuals, including Officer Kia Okuru, David's potential love interest. David is signaled out as the one incorruptible man on the force, and it makes his life difficult. I'd like to see a larger arc where David has to deal with the corruption on the force, similar to what Batman's had to do with the GCPD back in his early days.
Unique Challenges: Batwing desperately needs to get out from under the shadow of Batman and be its own title. Leave Gotham, its heroes, and its villains alone and get back to telling stories in the unique setting of Tinasha. I've been eagerly awaiting what's to follow the Massacre and Kingdom story arc, but the start of the new arc in #10 was a let down, featuring heavy tie-ins to Batman, Inc. again.