If you’re going to write a comic book story where the major villain is someone named Caligula, you could certainly find less fitting ways to open it than an MMA fight.
This month begins Batwing’s jaunt to Rome on official Bat business. What will he find along the way? Let’s see…
As we know, the issue opens with Luke Fox in a mixed martial arts match. The internal narration catches the reader up on Luke’s early exploits as Batwing, and connects his current investigation in Rome to the earlier arcs involving Marabunta. Turns out that Charlie Caligula, the villain Fox is trying to capture, was in league with the African warlords and sent Lady Vic after him a few issues back. Luke wins the fight, and channels Dolemite as he pretends to be a blustery American in victory. In the locker-rom Fox is approached DC’s nine millionth red-haired pretty lady, and she extends Caligula’s invitation to a much more exclusive fight. Turns out, our mystery woman is Batman’s contact in the organization, and she is not enthused about this brash youngster possibly screwing up their one shot at getting Caligula.
We jump to Fox in the middle of what appears to be a Roman Coliseum-esque venue, fighting a big fella with fire hands. Our hero is not too happy about the fire hands, since he has no fire hands. Still, Fox keeps his head and manages to take the thug down. Caligula is impressed, so he offers up one of his people to be Fox’s entertainment for the evening. He picks DC’s nine millionth red-haired pretty lady, because there are more important things afoot than indulging in sexual slavery.
A short squabble ensues about Fox’s accelerated timeline for the attack on Caligula, but a page later the duo are suited up and traversing the rooftops. Batwing’s in-helmet display tells us the heroine is Pippi Giovanni: Legionary. Her father was the Italian slob last seen in Grant Morrison’s Black Glove story. He disgraced the family by accepting bribes and relishing the fame over the crime fighting, only to be killed when the Black Glove attacked the Club of Heroes. Now, his daughter has taken the mantel to dispose of Charlie Caligula and regain her family’s honor.
Over the rest of the issue the duo captures Caligula, and they just barely escape his compound before it explodes. With his mission complete, Fox accepts Legionary’s offer to see the sights around Rome.
Despite the couple of small points I cracked on in the recap (the red-haired thing in DC seems outta damned control these days…); this was exactly how you do a one-off story. Sure, it set the table for things to unfold between Fox and Giovanni over the next few issues, but the adventure moves quickly and covers a lot of ground. I also loved the pairing of Batwing and Legionary, because it takes me right back to the Black Glove/Batman Inc. story arcs from Morrison I loved so much. Even better, it does so without just directly poaching from the previous work since Fox wasn’t Morrison’s Batwing and Pippi wasn’t the Legionary back then either. I’m excited to see where their adventures go from this point… just please don’t have them get in a childish fight in two issues!
The art in the issue is strong throughout, from Darwyn Cook’s cover to Eduardo Pansica’a pencils. The backgrounds looked great, and I appreciated Pippi being drawn as a strong, seductive woman, without going bonkers with her figure. Excellent work all the way around, and I continue to be thoroughly impressed by the work that’s been done on this book since the main character (and creative teams) switched.
Reviewed by Benjamin Scott