Grim, grimmer and grimmest. No-one smiles in Batwing #13 unless they're cutting the throats of terrified young girls or piloting fighter planes into the centre of cities. To call A Hard Turn joyless would hardly be giving credit to the sheer overwhelming excess of misery to be found there. Though Winick's script is a carelessly written cliche-fest, and despite his characters being woefully one-dimensional and profoundly uninteresting, all involved have at least succeeded in packing the issue with a great clogging, blood-sodden mess of angst. Beyond the deliberate unpleasantness of the violence and the bloke-thrilling miserabilism, there's hardly anything here to note at all. Bad people do predictably terrible things, and then they do it all again, while a tiny number of stolid super-people bravely stand up for the good and true. And that's all that happens, expect for a single mawkish scene in which a policewoman admits to taking bribes and being frightened for her kidnapped niece. Luckily, that big strong Batwing - in his secret identity as a charisma-less copper - is there to comfort her and stiffen her resolve. Everyone serving as a police officer in the Democratic Republic of Congo is on the take, it seems, and nobody there can be relied upon. The sole exception is this one heroic officer, who just happens to be funded in his off-duty do-gooding by a philanthropic, supersuit-providing American billionaire.
It's strange how no-one at DC even now seems to have thought through the consequences of this unfortunate aspect of Batwing's set-up. When the only good man and true in the undeniably corrupt police force of the DRC is a sidekick to an American tycoon, unfortunate implications inevitably suggest themselves.
|Even more blood!|
It's a considerable cheek that a comic which tells so little story should also be so difficult to make sense of. Clearly, the comic's creators - and the editorial staff who support them - missed that key New 52 meeting when it was decided that stories would no longer be impenetrable to casual readers. For who is the fiendish Father Lost, the supposedly terrifying mastermind behind all this misery? What are his powers and his intentions, and why should we care? Why are his followers rounding up stray innocents and gorily murdering them? Who is Dawn, the superheroine who can create glowing swords from nothing, and what's her mission beyond the generic hunting down of very bad and thereby eminently-slashable madmen? Is the only way to deal with folks who appear to be under Lost's control to stab them? Is everyone - absolutely everyone - in the DRC beyond Batwing corrupt and/or useless, and does that explain why both Dawn and Batwing are working alone? Why is a mind-controlled South African Air Force General attacking the city of Tinasha in a fighter-bomber when there's a thousand miles and more separating the two nations?
Is there any way to get to grips with what's going on here beyond investing in all the relevant back issues or hanging on for the inevitable collected edition, and didn't the regime of Mr Didio promise us that those fleece-the-punter days were over?
But the questions don't stop there, although the next wave of them are much the same as those which were quite legitimately hurled in Batwing's direction when it debuted. Why is it that the comic's set in a take on the DRC when it shows nothing of the nation and its people beyond the most obvious of stereotypes and super-book cliches? Shouldn't there be also something that's worth respecting, and perhaps even - gosh - celebrating, amongst all the poverty, psychopathic cults, and state corruption which drive the plot of A Hard Turn? Can DC Comics really not find anything of value at all to portray in this entire nation beyond a few personality-free, super-powered crime-fighters? Yet there's not even a single visual example of architecture, fauna or pop culture here which suggests that this is a story set in a specific, modern-era African nation. There's certainly little but the slightest hint of an effort to represent life as it's lived in the often incredibly challenging circumstances of the DRC. Even the police uniforms in the art by Marcus To and his many inkers seem ridiculously over-simplified; there's no sense of specificity here, and therefore, no character. Why is this comic set where it is, when so little care seems to be being taken to reflect the DRC in anything but the most perfunctory, stereotype-reinforcing way?
No, the lack of flat-screen computers at Tinasha's police headquarters does not in itself constitute either evidence of research or respect for the detail of everyday life in Batwing's homeland. But that's the closest that this comic gets to the slightest sense of verisimilitude. Neither well-crafted or purposefully fair-minded in anything but the most crass of gestures, what is the point of Batwing?
|Half-naked, leering, clearly added mad-folks with knives!|
The Best Of Batwing #13
It's a challenging business, to nominate the two best moments in a comic that's so uniformly disappointing, and yet that's something I'd like to start to add to whatever reviews appear here. Still, the following are my personal nominations for the very finest aspects of this issue;