Title: Wayne of Gotham
Publisher: It Books, imprint of Harper Collins
Author: Tracy Hickman
Cover Design: Milan Bozic
Cover Illustration: Ryan Sook
!t Books, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, was nice enough to send me a copy of Wayne of Gotham to review. A novel about Batman is something I’d seen before, but I never read Batman novels and prefer to stick to comics, television, and film adaptations. So how is Wayne of Gotham in a medium I’m not used to seeing him in? Let’s find out. Warning: SPOILERS ahead.
The book takes on two different timelines, one of modern day Batman who seems to be in his late 40s and has a new Batsuit to help him with his less than prime body, and the 1950s when Thomas Wayne had just finished medical school and returned to Gotham. The two stories are linked by Batman’s current case involving people acting out of character, such as his friend Commissioner Gordon.
So this book is supposed to be about Batman, but when he does appear in the book (it’s more often Bruce Wayne, and even he is in disguise as someone else) it feels less like Batman and more like a low-powered Iron Man. I understand that an older Bruce would use some sort of exo-suit to aid him in fighting crime, but he comes off as helpless without it, and I don’t just mean physically; he can hardly come up with ideas without taking the suit into account.
The book leans more toward Batman’s detective side, which is just fine, but the problem is that he’s not the best detective here. He practically has to be told everything by his opponent leaving him things behind on purpose. At one point Batman uses Wikipedia to learn something about Gotham that lasted ten years, about four vigilantes that brutally murdered their victims and was called “The Apocalypse.” How does anyone, let alone Batman, not know of this part of Gotham’s history?
This book feels like it wanted to be about an entirely different science fiction set up of a son dealing with the sins of his father, but it just seems forced. Bruce also is a real jerk in this; he and Alfred are so petty toward one another throughout. I found myself not caring for Batman in the book since he didn’t feel like a likable character. I love Batman, and this just didn’t feel like Batman. It almost felt like it was a challenge – write a Batman story with Batman or Bruce Wayne being words used as little as possible. I’m exaggerating, but the truth is, it wasn’t a great Batman story.
Thomas Wayne and Martha Kane are also not likable characters. Martha is a two-dimensional rich girl who just wants to rebel against her parents. Thomas became particularly despicable; beyond his eugenic experiments that caused so much tragedy, there is a part of the book where he debates raping a passed out Martha. This actually happens in the book. Martha only falls for Thomas when she sees him (it was actually someone else masquerading as him) punch out their friend. The entire Wayne family is awful in this book, and I’m not alone in thinking this.
When I talked to other Batman fans who had read this book, or looked them up online, none of them liked it. The only people I could find that enjoyed this book were people who didn’t know Batman well. It makes sense, because if you don’t know Batman very well, this isn’t changing much for you; but if you do know him, this reads false. I still don’t know how anyone could read some sections of this book and go, “Good stuff!”, but it happens.
The only Batman villains to show up are Spellbinder, Scarface, Harley, and Joker, each in very small doses and mostly not acting like themselves. I wanted to like this book, but it just never clicked as a real Batman tale. It also spends a lot of time getting into describing technology in almost needless detail. New characters show up in this book, too, but only one of them is interesting. I still don’t know exactly what the point of everyone in Gotham getting invitations was for. All in all, this book is easily passable, but I don’t recommend it, and I’m sad by that because I was hoping for a fun novel.