Batwing may be a new character, but writer Judd Winick has already instilled David Zavimbe with a deep histroy in a mere six issues of the DC Comics New 52 series, BATWING. With only a short appearance in BATMAN, INCORPORATED #5 under his belt prior to the series’ launch, Batwing was a blank slate for Winick and, series artist, Ben Oliver. As the title prepares to join up with the rest of the Batman-related titles for the “Night of Owls” crossover event, BATWING brings plenty to the table. For those getting their first taste of Batwing during his debut adventure in Gotham City, here’s a full profile of the character and series.
David Zavimbe may be Batman, Inc.’s “Batman of Africa,” but he’s not a mere copy of the original set in a new locale. Zavimbe is a multilayered character and, unlike many of the cookie cutter heroes DC Comics has pushed the last several years, he is a man with blood on his hands. Zavimbe learned the meaning of justice in a world completely void of it. His passion for the virtue comes not from external forces, but a personal quest for redemption. When his parents died of A.I.D.S. complications, David and his brother, Isaac, were kidnapped from an orphanage and forced to be child soldiers in the “Army of the Dawn.” Led by the warlord, General Ayo Keita, the Zavimbe brothers quickly rose through the ranks of the army, earning themselves the nickname “The Dragonflies” for their ability to quickly and effectively dispose of Keita’s enemies. When The Dragonflies refused to ruthlessly kill women and children, they rebeled against the general and Isaac was seemingly killed in the resulting exchange.
David is able to escape, however, and after exacting revenge for his brother’s death, he ends up at a refuge for former child soldiers. The Children’s Harbor is headed up by Matu and David stayed there throughout his remaining childhood. Once an adult, David hoped to combat his past by eliminating the injustices plaguing the Democratic Republic of Congo’s city of Tinasha by joining its police force. Unfortunately, David quickly learned that the corruption permeated even the police; prompting him to go out on his own to protect the people of Africa. Shortly thereafter, during a fight with the drug and weapons dealing Blood Tiger’s men, David came under the attention of Batman, who gave David a hi-tech suit of armor and inaugurated him into Batman, Inc. as the Batman of Africa.
While readers still haven’t seen the full capabilities of Batwing’s armor, it is equipped with wings and a jet pack for flight, including an add-on for traveling longer distances, which also hampers David’s access to weapons systems. Those weapons include tasers, a flame thrower, a grappling hook and some form of puddy projectile. Batwing’s known resources are rounded out by The Haven, Batwing’s secret hi-tech base of operations. Oliver’s minimalist approach to storytelling, while excellent at conveying emotion and mostly effective at action, lacks in wide panel shots, preventing readers from getting an overall view of the state of Tinasha, as well as little more insight into The Haven other than a few large computer screens, a hospital bed and some blank walls. It fails to give readers a real sense of what the headquarters has to offer. The same can be said for Batwing’s armor, lacking any deep detail, however, this allows for easy upgrading of the armor as time goes on. The first instance of which is likely to occur when Marcus To takes over regular art duty with May’s #9, the first “Night of the Owls” tie-in issue.
And while all this history is being revealed, Batwing, must break from aiding Batman’s pursuit of Leviathan (as glimpsed in BATMAN, INC. #5), to stop a murderous monster known as Massacre. This machete wielding psycho is bent on killing the original members of the former African superhero team, The Kingdom. A team remembered by the general populace as heroes that liberated the country, Massacre is obsessed with making The Kingdom answer for crimes he feels they committed. Massacre has already successfully killed 3 members of the team, Earth Strike, Thunder Fall and Dawnfire, as well as an entire police precinct for daring to investigate him, at Zavimbe’s insistence. David also suffered a serious knife wound to the chest during the attack. The villain has also brought down The Kingdom’s former base of operations, The Citadel, during its opening as a Kingdom museum. Batwing was able to save the former armored hero, Steelback, and the team’s support man, Josiah Kone. The former revealed two of the 3 remaining Kingdom members, Razorwire and Staff, have relocated to Gotham City. BATWING #6 ends with Batwing hoping to reach them before Massacre, aided by the Batman “home team” of Batman, Nightwing and Robin. The last original Kingdom member, Deity, is rumored to be living out in the wild. Her current status is unknown.
BATWING’s supporting cast starts small. Assisted at times, of course, by Batman; Batwing’s main day-to-day assistance comes from his longtime friend and mentor, Matu. Staying with David into adulthood, Matu currently aids Batwing in his pursuit of justice and redemption. Working out of The Haven, Matu offers support during missions and frequent applications of medical attention afterwards. Seemingly, David’s only personal friend, Matu helps Zavimbe through his own inner demons. Officer Kia Okuru is the lone other survivor of the precinct tragedy. She was also the only other officer in the precinct not corrupted by bribes and influence. Together, David and Kia may be able to rebuild the precinct with more virtuous officers and from there start the clean up of Tinasha. The rescue of Daniel Balogun (Steelback) and Kone offers two potential new cast members. Since both have a background in technology and Kone, in particular, has experience offering support, the two could nicely round out operations in The Haven.
As evidenced above, Winick and Oliver have already established much in this young title, creating near limitless potential in the largely unexplored DC Universe version of Africa. While technically a Batbook, BATWING is far enough removed from the others that it can be enjoyed on its own with just enough flavor of the overall Batverse to satisfy Batfans.