Thursday, December 6, 2012
Book Review: WAYNE OF GOTHAM
IT BOOKS/HarperCollins – @ItBooks
AUTHOR: Tracy Hickman
COVER: Ryan Sook
ISBN: 978-0-06-221986-2; paperback (December 4, 2012)
304pp, B&W, $15.99 U.S.
Tracy Hickman is a fantasy author and game designer, noted for his work on Dragonlance, including writing Dragonlance novels with Margaret Weis. Wayne of Gotham is a Batman prose novel written by Hickman and originally published in hardcover (June 2012). It Books recently released the novel in paperback.
Wayne of Gotham, which does not follow the Batman continuity currently used by DC Comics, finds Batman/Bruce Wayne embroiled in a case that ties into the murder of his parents and that also reveals a terrible secret from his father’s past. Wayne of Gotham is as good (if not better) than the Batman comic books being published today. As far as I’m concerned, it’s certainly more entertaining than the recent film, The Dark Knight Rises.
It begins when Batman finds himself confronted by a rash of vigilante attacks in which ordinary citizens take on criminals. The Dark Knight discovers that these citizens are not exactly in their right minds, and this includes Commissioner James “Jim” Gordon. Then, the clues and hints come, and Batman discovers that someone is leaving a breadcrumb trail of tantalizing hints about Wayne Empire.
This new mystery returns Bruce to the brutal murder of his father, Dr. Thomas Alan Wayne, and, his mother, Martha Kane Wayne. Now, Bruce is forced to learn things about his father’s life he never would have expected. There are ties to the Moxon crime family, including a friendship with, Lewis Moxon, the son of boss Julius Moxon. There is also a relationship with Ernst Richter, a controversial doctor at Gotham University.
While he tries to discover his true family history, Batman must face down the dark legacy of Wayne family history. He must battle old foes (like The Joker and Harley Quinn) and confront the man who is practically the only family he has left, Alfred Pennyworth. Even worse, Batman must uncover the secrets of the terrible thing born in the bowels of Arkham Asylum, a force called the Apocalypse.
Batman is usually the most interesting aspect of Batman stories and fiction, unless he is outshone by a villain, as the Joker did in two films, Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008). In Wayne of Gotham, not only does Batman the costumed hero shine, but also Bruce Wayne the man, Alfred Pennyworth the family secret keeper, and Thomas Wayne the father. This is essentially an ensemble piece in which Batman may save the day, but when it comes to being intriguing, he doesn’t get “most” in front of his name. Hickman works the father-son conflict dynamic so well that Wayne of Gotham really is as much about the Wayne men as it is about Batman.
Hickman re-imagines Batman and Bruce Wayne’s history in a way that allows him to connect Thomas Wayne’s activities to the birth of Batman. Hickman doesn’t change much; he simply gives reason, motivation, and rationale to everything Batman and to everyone related to the Dark Knight.
This novel is brilliant, witty, and mad. This is a story that grabs the reader by the collar and drags him on an adventure across two time periods, the present and 1958. Along the way, readers get to see a version of Harley Quinn that is creepy and unsettling and a Joker that is as witty as he is murderous (sort of a mixture of Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the character with the Joker from Batman: The Animated Series).
There are so many twists, turns, and surprises that Wayne of Gotham is like a paperback thrill machine. In Tracy Hickman’s hands, the Dark Knight does indeed rise.
Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux