Two words grabbed my attention and encouraged me to pick up "Batwing" #19: Gray and Palmiotti. The writing duo of "All-Star Western" triggered my imagination when they took over "Hawkman" from Geoff Johns in 2004. I expected a letdown at that point, but the duo took what Johns had done and added more rogues, schemes, mythology and history to the Winged Wonder. As they take over "Batwing," I have no doubt they'll do something similar, but this character truly is more of a blank slate. Or at least he will be once the duo finishes the housecleaning they begin in their first issue writing David Zavimbe.
Cemeteries and burials have become a constant in Batbooks recently and this one is no different as "Batwing" #19 opens with David and Batman having a discussion in a graveyard in David's hometown of Tinasha. The graveyard is story-driven, yet symbolic of the journey Batwing has taken and the toll it has placed upon him. Palmiotti and Gray wraps things up here, giving David and his confidant, Matu Ba, a proper send off as they set up their own cast of characters.
As they do in "All-Star Western," Gray and Palmiotti use subheads to separate action and serve as chapter markers throughout the story. This emphasizes the exceptionally dense issue that is thick with lots of words, occasionally constricting panels and forcing the backgrounds to be light.
Eduardo Pansica and Júlio Ferreira submit workman's duty on the art, with glimpses of greatness couched in solid storytelling and stunning action. There are some points where the action takes great leaps, but the ends are frequently worth the means, serving as payoff to conflict. Jason Wright's colors are good, thick with patterns and textures, adding the murky appearance of this book. Dark and overwhelming, scary and full of woe Batwing is on a mission to deal some hurt and it really shows.
Palmiotti and Gray use "Batwing" #19 to tie up loose ends, cut off dangling plotlines and clear the table for their story. By the end of the issue, it is clear what direction the duo is taking the title, or at least who will become the new Batwing. Driven by his losses, however, I am not certain we've seen the last of Zavimbe. Gray and Palmiotti make a solid effort to balance that character's baggage, clearing the way for a character that has tighter ties to Batman, yet is free to roam the DC Universe a bit more. This issue is an appetizer for what Palmiotti and Gray can cook up instead of the first sample of the main course.