Batman: Nightwalker (DC Icons #2)
By: Marie Lu
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 2nd 2018
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.
Frequent readers of the blog might remember the first novel in the DC Icons series, Wonder Woman: Warbringer and how much I was blown away by it. Well, although I was slightly less blown away by Marie Lu’s depiction of Batman, I can say without a doubt that it’s continuing the trend of good, interesting and very in-character DC YA books.
I’m actually just impressed, having read this, at how carefully someone at DC must have selected each of these authors. There could be no better writer of Wonder Woman than Leigh Bardugo–similarly, no one could write a white knight billionaire obsessed with the dark, compelling, brilliant villain like Marie Lu could. In a way, this book made sense of Batman (and by extension, his franchise) for me. She explained to me the warring forces within Bruce Wayne, a fascination with violence and darkness tempered by a powerful desire to do good despite (or perhaps using) it. She masterfully plays with light and dark in the title character, but refrains from making him the movie’s jaded playboy, instead making him an innocent eighteen-year-old only just figuring out the extent to which the world loves/hates him.
But, his antics, and a policewoman determined to show the spoiled billionaire how the real world is, land him doing community service in Arkham Asylum, home to (as everyone knows) the worst criminals Gotham has to hide. And, to Bruce’s surprise, one of them is an eighteen-year-old girl named Madeleine. Despite knowing she’s a hardened criminal who’s killed three people, he can’t help but get close–and she lets him. This, to me, is where Marie Lu is excellent. I couldn’t get enough of these chapters, of the verbal battles between Madeleine and Bruce, the back-and-forth and figuring each other out–oh, and the sexual tension. You could have cut it with a knife, and it was amazing.
Madeleine is also a superbly written character–brilliant, a clear genius, more than a match for Bruce’s prodigious intellect. She’s hardened, but also vulnerable. She knows exactly how to play Bruce, but she’s not above emotions either. She’s his match in so many ways, and that’s what makes everything between them spark. But she also has her weaknesses, and I think one of the most interesting things about the ending is the extent to which she drops the mask, toes the line, and how we see more of her true self in 20 pages than we have in 200. It’s worth reading all the way to the end for.
I was not quite as enthused about the typical Batman trappings as I was with Leigh Bardugo’s ironic use of superhero/action tropes. The fancy cars, the fancy galas, the fancy tech…It was interesting, it was in some ways necessary, but it was also somewhat bland. I prefered his text conversations with his friends far more than I preferred discussions of his trust fund or how much Bruce hated the press. Alfred, of course, was an absolute gem and we should have seen more of him getting onto Bruce for being a total idiot, because someone needed to. And, comics noob that I am, I still appreciated the references to Harvey Dent, the detective guy, and other people who tend to show up in Batman things.
Overall, this was a very good read. I love dark, twisty books and sexual tension, and no one could have written this better than Marie Lu. It’s a fitting follow-up to Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman, and is getting me even more excited for Sarah J Maas’ Catwoman: Soulstealer, out this fall (even though I am curious how much it’ll toe the line between YA and Adult, and also how many times Catwoman will purr her replies a la Celaena Sardothien).
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.