Batman: Nightwalker (DC Icons #2)
Written by: Marie Lu
Review by Stephanie Cooke
I am so here for the DC Icons line of YA novels featuring beloved characters from DC Comics. So. Here. For. It. The first one I read was Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman: Warbringer, a book that I thoroughly enjoyed — with a wonderful interpretation of Diana (sorry not sorry!). Since then, I have been anticipating the remaining novels from the DC Icons series, which are all written by women and marginalized creators (Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Sarah J. Maas, Matt de la Peña). This new series of YA books comes after Gwenda Bond’s successful run of YA novels featuring the classic Superman character, Lois Lane (the Fallout books), which were also a delight.
But let’s focus on the book at hand here: Batman: Nightwalker. I have no previous experience with the writing of Marie Lu but I know many great people who adore her work, which is enough for me. Regardless of her name and previous work, I was always planning on reading Batman: Nightwalker, which features an interesting viewpoint of Bruce Wayne’s life: his teen years.
We have gotten approximately a bajillion versions of Bruce Wayne over the years but without fail, they’re almost entirely about him as an adult as he fights crime in Gotham as Batman. The other Bruce Wayne that we see a lot of is the child version of him, in the moments, weeks, and months surrounding the death of his parents. But one Bruce Wayne that I don’t think I’ve ever really seen at length, is teenager Bruce. I mean, Batman is already pretty stereotypically miserable and broody in most Batman things so getting a glimpse at his inner monologue during a time when people are almost all notoriously angsty? Well, that’s interesting to me.
Lu does a good job of addressing Bruce’s privilege within the book and discussing his self-awareness in regards to it. She balances his wealth and what comes with being an 18-year billionaire along with him trying to figure out how to manage the fame and notoriety that comes with the Wayne name etc. As the book progresses, you see Bruce grow as a character and work towards a greater good in Gotham. Bruce has just turned 18 at the start of the novel, so we’re mostly out of the woods in terms of the angsty years, but there’s still some of that teenage melodrama that remains to be consumed and enjoyed within Nightwalker.
I guess I should make note of the plot, huh? Well, within Batman: Nightwalker, the fancy and rich folks of Gotham City are being picked off by a group known as the Nightwalkers. After a run-in with the police, Bruce is forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum where he meets a mysterious young woman imprisoned there. They grow mutually curious about each other and eventually, mid-police investigation, she agrees only to speak with Bruce–who inadvertently gets involved with one of the biggest cases the GCPD has had on their hands.
I really enjoyed this book and appreciated that the publishers went with a woman’s perspective on Bruce here. I honestly don’t believe that there have been any women (or very few) who have ever officially written the character before, and it was a fresh of breath air to see someone else’s take on him.
Batman: Nightwalker had such fun glimpses at other characters that we know and love (or hate… or love to hate!) from Gotham too and cameos that any Bat-fan can appreciate. Like with Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman: Warbringer, don’t invest too much time in trying to think about continuity. The DC Icons books seem to be quite liberal with what has come before and have let the writers run wild with what they want to do within the universe, but it works. I’m so caught up in reading a good story that I’m not nitpicking at anything else within it. I think going into the book with this in mind is helpful though, so you’re not thrown aback. I got used to it through the aforementioned Warbringer book, so I was prepared for it here once again.
Buy it! I’m already a big fan of these DC Icons books which have done a great job of putting together fresh takes on characters that have been around for ages. Lu excels within the voice of Bruce Wayne and brings her own fresh take on him that reinvigorated my interest in Batman once again.
I really believe in supporting this series as well to show the publisher that women can sell these YA titles and to maybe give them the incentive to bring more women onto these titles on the comic side as well.