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Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu
Book Name: Batman: Nightwalker
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher(s): Random House Books for Young Readers
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): YA Superhero
Release Date: January 2, 2018 (US) January 3, 2018 (UK)

The second in the new series published by Penguin called DC Icons, these YA novels take a look back on the teen lives of popular DC heroes. The ground was safely and greatly broken by Wonder Woman: Warbringer, which I reviewed in January. Nightwalker, handled with care by the author of the bestselling The Young Elites series, Marie Lu, tackles young Bruce’s first foray into fighting crime.

Bruce Wayne is just a regular teenager. I’m kidding of course; chances are that you know his backstory. Gunned down in a back alley, Thomas and Martha Wayne became victims of the rough streets of Gotham, leaving young son, Bruce, behind with faithful manservant, Alfred. Not only is he orphaned, he’s also raised knowing that he will, on his 18th birthday, inherit his family’s vast fortune.

We’re introduced to well-known names, Alfred Pennyworth (of course), Harvey Dent, and eventually Jim Gordon, along with some fresh characters such as best friend Dianne Garcia and Richard Price. I just couldn’t read the book without processing Alfred’s lines while hearing and picturing Michael Caine (although Sean Pertwee does make an incredible Alfred). It’s a big mantle to carry. The Dark Knight trilogy of films are incredibly loved by fans, and not just those of the growing DC empire. Leigh Bardugo may have tackled Wonder Woman first, but there wasn’t such big footsteps to follow on from. There have been many (and debatable, if you include TV shows or not), incarnations of the caped crusader, with TV-adaptation and prequel series Gotham going strong.

As Gotham hails Bruce’s 18th birthday, the media are a-frenzy with delight; waiting in front-row seats to see how his newly accessed fortune will go to his head. (Wait, the media are vultures? Who knew?) He accidentally plays into their hands, giving them exactly what they want to see. He disobeys police orders following a high speed chase in a new Aston Martin that’s on loan to him for testing and wins a period of community service, billed to the infamous Gotham Asylum.

We’re introduced to a group called the Nightwalkers, who proclaim to do society a favour by robbing from the rich and giving to… well, themselves. They take more than money too; the group target Gotham’s wealthiest, and corrupt, taking their money, then their lives. They gain untraceable access to their victim’s homes, transfer the funds, and kill their mark.

Bruce’s life becomes entwined with the group as he throws a benefit on his 18th birthday to help raise funds for the Gotham City Legal Protection Fund, a tradition his mother had created. On leaving the party early, Bruce drives his Aston Martin right into a police chase, which lands a member of the Nightwalkers in jail, and himself in community service.

Since the night of his parent’s deaths, Bruce has kept an eye on the criminal activity in Gotham, tuning into the police radio frequency. He just can’t resist the call of justice when he sees his chance to make a difference.

On starting his community service, he’s forced to face some of Gotham’s most dangerous criminals. And then there’s Madeleine, an 18-year old Nightwalker caught previous to Bruce’s involvement. It becomes clear that she’s not keen on talking to the police but is willing to divulge to Bruce.

As the pair discover more about each other, more than what they wanted to reveal, prejudices and preconceptions are transformed. Initially, Madeleine sits on one end of the scale: she’s a criminal, she’s part of a group that steals money and kills people in their homes. Bruce, at the other end, is a rich boy, who’ll want for nothing and never need to work a day in his life. As time passes, the reality of their situations become clear. Bruce sees how the corruption that’s poisoning Gotham has led to the death of Madeleine’s family, just as it has his, while she sees that not all of the city’s elite are looking out for themselves.

They both want to end the corruption that’s ruining Gotham; it’s destroying their home. They’ll take the only route they see possible to reach their goal. They’re trying to make the best hand from the cards they’ve been dealt. Without a confidante, they feel the future of Gotham rests in their young hands.

As the Nightwalker’s plans unfold, the tension rises and drama increases. Has Bruce been assisting Madeleine all along? Will the Nightwalkers make Bruce a target? With newly granted access to WayneTech, Bruce gets ever closer to having everything he needs at his fingertips to become the masked vigilante that we’ve come to know so well.

“Let’s make this the last time you cross hairs with GCPD.”

“The last time,” Bruce said firmly. “I doubt I’ll ever be involved with anything this intense again.”

Sure, Bruce, we know how that turns out.

The DC Icons series continues with Catwoman: Soulstealer, with Sarah J. Mass at the helm. Due out in hardback in August 2018.


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