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Synopsis "I am One with this Land" (20-pages)
Previously in Batwing #10-11: Batwing’s mentor, his Alfred, was Matu Ba, the estranged son of Masika Ba, the Governor of the oil rich Rivers State province in Nigeria. The Ba family was originally from the small country of Tundi, a place that had been taken over in a superhuman revolution two decades earlier. Its ruler, “Lord Battle” (alias Abraham Attah), sealed Tundi’s borders after the revolution, but he remained an ally of Masika. So when the Governor and his family were assassinated, Battle allowed Matu to return to Tundi with the bodies of his relatives for burial in their ancestral homeland. Meanwhile, Batwing was working with Nightwing to crack a nuclear smuggling ring than ended in Gotham City. The two cases became intertwined when Matu discovered that Tundi had its own concealed oil reserves and Batman discovered that the Penguin had sold Lord Battle a nuclear warhead.
Batman remains in the Batcave to coordinate the infiltration of Tundi while Batwing calls his allies in the Justice League International to his own headquarters, the Haven in Tinasha. He outlines the situation as they know it. Battle is planning to nuke the Rivers State oil reserves. The assassination of the Governor’s family will make it look like a local conflict and hide Tundi’s involvement. Lord Battle will then unveil Tundi’s own oil reserves, instantly becoming one of the richest oil producers in the world.
The JLI, Nightwing, and Batwing split into three teams to place devices in Tundi that will temporarily deactivate the anti-satellite cloak that covers the country. Only when that’s down will Batman be able to use the technology in the Batcave to find the stolen nuke. The three teams gets into position, but their presence is sensed by Lord Battle and he sends his honour guard, the Blood Storm after them. It takes Batman only a few moments to locate the bunker containing the bomb and to learn that Battle is protecting it personally. The JLI, Nightwing, and Batwing break off their fights with the Blood Storm and engage Lord Battle directly, but his phenomenal strength gives him the upper hand.
Matu Ba escapes from the Tundi hospital where he was being treated for injuries sustained during his capture. He contacts Batman with intel that Lord Battle boasted about his “connection to the land”. Battle was just a normal man before coming to Tundi and he has not left the country since the revolution. Batwing understands and collaborates with Guy Gardner, August General, and Booster Gold to knock Lord Battle off his feet. OMAC them flips Battle into the air where he is caught by Batwing and carried beyond Tundi’s border. Somehow Battle had joined himself to the land and was drawing super-strength from it. However, the connection is two-way. Without Battle’s presence the vegetation in Tundi begins withering.
Lord Battle begs Batwing not to punish his country. He once truly loved his people, but that changed when he tried turning his hand to attempted nuclear murder. Battle nevertheless agrees to voluntarily confinement within Tundi. His presence will strengthen the land, but he will not rule it. With Battle is removed from power, the UN move into Tundi to organise elections. However, his removal leaves a power vacuum in African that others such as the King Shadow are only too happy to exploit.
Judd Winick was the writer who took Booster Gold and friends through 24-issues of Justice League: Generation Lost and set-up the momentum — if not necessarily the continuity — which carried over into the current incarnation of Justice League International. It is then rather fitting that he gets to take the JLI out for a spin before the group gets Geoffed in the upcoming annual. The only pity is that Rocket Red, the break out character from Winick’s run, isn’t around for the fun (his funeral is in the last issue of JLI). Winick returns to the JLI with a deft hand and manages to hit the right notes with Booster Gold and co despite them really just being background noise for Batwing’s heroics. And did anybody notice that OMAC did not once say “I. Am. OMAC.”?
Winick on Batwing is one of those writer/book combos, like Robinson on Earth 2 or Morrison on Action Comics, where the writer has been left free to create his own corner of the DC Universe. We’ve probably seeing more new — and GOOD — super-human characters in this series that in any other of the New 52 books. It’s just a pity that the excellent Kingdom was killed off before we could see more of them. Likewise here, the Blood Storm don’t really get a chance to shine. I like the idea of Sniper and the Fallen looks like he’s got a good back story. This series has had quite a weight to it – what with issues of child soldiers and mass murder — so Lord Battle is strangely incongruous. He looks like a character from a 1980s toyline, but his Fisher King like connection to the land gives him a wonderful sense of pathos – albeit one that could have done with an extra-issue’s exploration.
The art in this issue is handled by the excellent Marcus To. He delivers a great crowd cover of the JLI. I have to wonder why this group must go outside its own title to get good cover treatment.
Surveying the Internets
Much like the continent he has sworn to protect, Batwing is in constant need of aid. 6/12 covers have shown Batwing side-by-side with another hero and this week’s issue features not only Batwing with Batman and Nightwing but the entire Justice League International as well [...] And as a result it reads more like an issue of “Justice League International”.
This book has been championing the ever expanding Africa in this new diverse DC universe and you really have to give it up to Judd Winick who has been coming up with great villains and adventures for our hero. This last adventure has given us Striker, Neith, Sniper, King Shadow and Lord Battle. There’s something to be said about the organic way that Africa is being expanded in this book. Not only is it a joy to follow the titular character but new black superheroes and villains have become par for the course.
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Page 1. The nation of Tundi was introduced in Batwing #10. The name itself is an African boys name, a variant of Tunde, meaning “one who returns” which is rather apt considering this story is about Matu Ba returning to his ancestral homeland.
One of the members of the Blood Storm is called Neith and is referenced as being named for a goddess. The original Neith (various Net or Niet) was one of the Classical Eqyptian pantheon. She was a dual goddess of weaving and war, this was understood as her being one who created the warriors’ arms and then guarded their bodied when they were dead. Classical writers from Greece conflated Nieth with their goddess Athena.
Page 3-4. Rivers State, Nigera is a real State within Nigera. Its one of several States that straddle the contentious Niger Delta oil field, a place where even the Nigerian government admit to there having been 7,000 oil spills in the last forty years.
The JLI’s expulsion occured in #7 (Oct 2012) when the UN orderd their to ceases their activities in response to the civilians deaths causes by a terrorist attack on one of their media events.
Page 6. OMAC in sewers is something of a running gag. In OMAC #x he tried to get out of Brother Eye’s control by going underground, but found himself running for his life from a cluster of bio-gators sent by Cadmus. Then in Justice League International (vol. 3) #9 (July 2012) he was manipulated into attacking the JLI and was only freed from that domination when Batman forced the fight into a deep sewer tunnel.
Page 7. Matu Ba. His first appeared in Batwing #1. He was the caretaker/headmaster of a charity which took in and reformed child soliders. David Zavimbe was one of those children. He came a vigilantie in part because of an superhuman attack that killed the female head of the charity’s orphanage and left Ba hospitalised.