Eighteen-year-old Bruce Wayne has just inherited the family fortune, but his life isn’t particularly glamorous. After a recent stunt interfering with a police chase, Bruce just landed a probation stint at Arkham Asylum, home to the city’s worst criminals. That includes Madeline Wallace, a young member of an elusive gang called The Nightwalkers that’s murdering the wealthy residents of Gotham. She’s not cracking under pressuring for police. In fact, she’s not talking to them at all. But she will talk to Bruce. He knows Madeline isn’t exactly trustworthy, but Bruce thinks he can use her to stop The Nightwalkers once and for all. Which one of them will get the answers they need in their battle of wits?
Batman: Nightwalker is advertised for ages 12 & up, so it does feel a bit young for a YA novel. Sure, there was murder and robbing of the rich, but it’s largely off-the-page. With the exception of a quick intro, we stay firmly in Bruce’s head and he doesn’t actually witness the majority of the turmoil. If you have a family member who’s on the younger side but really into Batman, this novel will work for them. Unfortunately, older YA and adult audiences may find it a little too sanitary and safe, unless you prefer low intensity.
Even as a teen, Bruce has a knack for finding trouble and a hero complex. He’s also a bit of a sucker at times. All of it felt genuine to the older version of the character, which is a definite plus. We feel like we know him, but the novel also thrives on the use of secondary characters like Bruce’s friends Harvey Dent, who will someday become the villainous Two-Face, Dianne Garcia, an original character with heart and sass, and Richard Price, an original former friend who works as a fantastic foil to Young Bruce. Alfred had some touching moments in there as well, serving as part employee, part guardian. There was only one character whose presence I struggled with: Lucius Fox’s appearance felt more expository than genuine, but that’s also a problem for me in the comics and films as well.
On the whole, I just wasn’t as impressed with the villainy. Madeline was an interesting character with a dark past and mystery, but I struggled with Bruce almost immediately being captivated by her, despite clearly knowing she’s a lethal criminal who targets people like him. It would make more sense if he thinks he’s going to somehow save his own skin, but he barely seems to recognize that he too is in danger. Their conversations were intriguing, but didn’t feel nearly as earth-shaking or soul-spiraling as the character reactions would have the reader believe. Madeline aside, The Nightwalkers needed a stronger presence. There’s one really intense sequence in which Bruce himself is threatened, and I wish there was more of that from different character POVs (Nightwalker or even their victims) to add to the thrill factor.
There are some great nods to the Batman mythology as we know it, like Harvey Dent unconsciously fiddling with coins while the friends hang out. However, there were certain major elements of the Batman mythology I expected would be touched upon since the character is eighteen and finishing school in the novel– Bruce leaving Gotham and discovering martial arts or even alt storylines where he tries to join the police force; the gritty noir style– that were sadly left in the dust. Even though I knew we wouldn’t see Bruce as the Batman in this novel, it would have been really great to see how his dilemma with The Nightwalkers directly influenced Bruce’s path toward transformation. A couple to times, I expected things would get darkly compelling, but nothing really came of them.
Batman: Nightwalker is a good book and there will be something for DC fans and non-DC fans to appreciate. However, it wasn’t a great book. It’s hard to know how things shake out when a major author and a corporation controlling popular decades-old narrative collide, so I won’t put all the blame on anyone, but I will say the issue, for me, is the plotting rather than the actual writing. Readers will still find enjoyment in the story, so give it a go for yourself!
RATING: 3 OUT OF 5 STARS
Batman: Nightwalker is available now. You can order it now via Amazon.
Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.
The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list.
One by one, the city’s elites are being executed as their mansions’ security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he’s forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city’s most brutal criminals.
Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce’s only hope.
In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.