It's a double-dip week for Batwing, as the huge first arc of his own series comes to a clonse with Batwing #8, and then in the aftermath, he hooks up with Booster Gold and crew over in Justice League International #8. So why not take a look at them in tandem, shall we?
In Judd Winick's Batwing, police officer David Zavimbe's gruesome past as a child soldier has been unraveled as he tries to stop the juggernaut of indignant destruction calling himself Massacre. He's finally tracked the machete-wielding madman to Gotham City as he's about to complete his mission of murdering the last of The Kingdom, which was essentially the Justice League of Africa before they disbanded in a disgrace we learned of last issue. In this issue, we finally learn Massacre's true identity and… no surprise at all, it's David's long lost younger brother Isaac, which was telegraphed as soon as it was revealed that David had assumed he was dead since they were kids in the nefarious warlord General Keita's thrall. There were a couple of red herrings introduced in Batwing #7, but no, it's who we thought it was all along, and we were one step ahead of Batwing the whole time.
However, the unsurprising revelation does not mean this is a lackluster issue by any means. It's what we've been waiting for since the start, as the truth is finally out and we can deal with it. It turns out former Kingdom support staff Josiah Kone has been directing Massacre's wrath the entire time, to make them pay for their arrangement with the ruthless President Okura – one they thought was as honorable as they could manage, but one which left fifty thousand dead in its aftermath. Kone remote-pilots the Steelback armor, but surviving Kingdom member Daniel Balogun, the original Steelback, is guiding Batman, Robin and Nightwing to take it down, leaving the Zavimbe brothers to settle their differences on their own. Despite seeing the twist coming a mile away, the emotional resonance of it is engrossing once it's finally out – and it's unclear whether or not Massacre has learned the secret that Batwing is really his brother.
The art from Dustin Nguyen is clean and moody, very different from the painted style of Ben Oliver with which the series began, but still effective and evocative. Batwing remains a very cool book with a very different feel to it, and long may it live.
Dan Jurgens' Justice League International #8, however, is more of a muddled picture, although that may come from the fact that I dropped the book after a couple issues because I wasn't really feeling it. However, the fact that Zavimbe is misspelled as 'Zavimbi' on the first page started us out on the wrong note. Apparently, Zavimbe has a past connection to JLI member Vixen, who is currently in a coma in the hospital, and since he was in Gotham City hanging out with Batman, he heard about the JLI's problems and came to see her. Then, at Batman's behest, he finds Booster Gold and helps him fend off a jerk named Lightweaver, who's working for a creep named Breakdown, who can make people decay with a thought. When he escapes custody, Booster and the Bats figure out how to find him, while the rest of the team licks their wounds and finds themselves discharged as U.N. operatives – apparently, they suck at their jobs.
It's nice to see the connection between Guy Gardner and Ice is still intact, as she's laid up with broken limbs, too, leaving Guy, Godiva and August General in Iron as the last-legs crew – it seems Rocket Red's been killed, which is sad, because he was one of the most fun parts of the earlier issues. But while these folks are pitying themselves, O.M.A.C. shows up to kick their asses as well. There's a lot of smacking and zapping and crumbling in this issue, and the Aaron Lopresti art has a very classic feel to it, while really bringing the unsettling imagery when necessary.
What makes this book uneven is the conversation between the Bats and Booster. Batwing keeps reacting to Booster as if he's being the obnoxious goofball he used to be, but here, he's really not saying anything even slightly annoying or dopey. It's just a really standard expository pow-wow, giving no reason for Batwing to turn to Batman and ask "is he always like this?" He's not being like anything. Does Booster Gold just radiate 'doofus' even when he's not BEING a doofus? Is that one of his New 52 powers? No idea. Still, we miss the hell out of Ted Kord. This could be a lot more entertaining book if he was around to banter with.
Justice League International #8 isn't bad at all. It's just kind of… off. I like the notion of Batwing and Vixen knowing each other, even if it's only a tangential meeting they had when she was volunteering at a Tinashan AIDS clinic. There's perhaps a danger of implying that everyone who's ever lived in Africa knows each other, but Batwing is such a cool character that any way to further integrate him into the DCU at large and make him indispensible is a wecome one. If he stays in the JLI, I'm back to picking it up regularly for the next little while, just to see if it ever shakes its unquantifiable iffiness and finds a good rhythm.