It would be just my luck that, after listing Batwing as the best surprise of 2011, an issue comes out that is way off the mark. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not turning my back on the only part of Batman Inc. that doesn’t make me throw up in my mouth, but Batwing #5 just isn’t good. The story is getting lackluster, suffering from the same drawn out story hitch that plagued Jason Aaron’s Wolverine run. I enjoy when a story doesn’t rush, but it has to be tempered with forward movement. Issue #5 accomplishes nothing besides reminding us, yet again, that the villain Massacre is crazy and giving writer Judd Winick a reason to bring in Batman.
Part of the problem is Winick set up in issue #4 that issue #5 was going be some final confrontation between Batwing and Massacre. I spent this entire story waiting for the two to mix it up, excited that it might take Batwing and the Dark Knight to bring down one of the most violent characters in recent memory. Instead, I got a dinner party – a festival celebrating The Kingdom, the mythological African answer to the Justice League who is shrouded beneath a veil of mystery, driving Massacre to knock them off one by one. People mill about, talk, we learn more about Batwing’s childhood spent with a bloodthirsty terror squad. More people mill about, more talking, and then suddenly Massacre attacks! Nice, here we go, the big showdown, the brawl for it all, the thrilla near manila!!
Nope, not even close. Instead, Winick unleashes a squad of Massacre imposters who cause confusion in order direct attention away from the bombs that the real Massacre planted throughout the Kingdom’s headquarters. After saving the day, Batwing gets one of Massacre’s crew to flip on him and then, shocker of all shockers, declares that this will be the final battle. So let’s recap. Nothing happens in issue #5, Batman serves no purpose and we get yet another promise of the final battle. That’s it. That was all issue #5 accomplished. The only worse development would have been Winick making Massacre actually Jason Todd. You laugh, but I promise you Winick thought about it.
Like I said, Batwing #5 isn’t the death of the series, but it puts up some red flags that have always been there with Winick. He loves to draw a story out to the point of it being rage-inducingly boring. I’m not saying everything with Massacre had to come to and end with issue #5 or even that the story arc needed to end here, but something needed to happen. The tension of the last four issues needed a steam valve release and Winick failed to give it to us. He didn’t even bother with an exciting issue, just a party that blew up. The anticlimactic nature of the story killed the momentum and means that issue #6 has to be something really special or Winick is going to have real trouble rebuilding it.
The art from Ben Oliver is first rate, as always. The weird thing for me is I’m starting to want to see a more direct comic book style in the story. The fine art semi-water color approach is visually stunning and helps give Batwing an otherworldly flavor, but I want something a little less flowery for such a violent title. I know it’s all on me, it has nothing to do with Ben Oliver’s ability but I’d still like to see a new artist take over.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 7/10 (2 Story, 5 Art)