Don’t be fooled by the illustrious and elaborate dust jacket art, this is indeed a novel. Furthermore, don’t be fooled by the fact that this novel is about Batman, because it, in fact, is not good. With a release date of June 26th, author Tracy Hickman and publishers HarperCollins aimed to gain sales on the excited anticipation of “The Dark Knight Rises” with the novel “Wayne of Gotham”. I am aware that it is now August, but the pace, and the fact that this book really wasn’t good, is part of the reason for the lateness of this review.
Understanding that this novel really aimed to focus on Bruce Wayne, Thomas Wayne, and the process of establishing Gotham, I decided to open my mind for a new “Batman novel experience”. Keeping an open mind was not enough to sift through this 292 page book that, in actuality, felt like 500 pages. Hickman writes with a vocabulary that throws out unnecessarily elaborate words as well as literary and historic references that come off as completely self-indulgent. Many sentences seem to run on into a pit of words that lose their meaning. Entire paragraphs would often be composed of one long run-on sentence.
“Wayne of Gotham” spends very little time with Batman and seeks to explore the man under the cape as well as the “Wayne” name altogether. The time-line jumps from past to present, showing how Thomas Wayne’s actions in the 1950’s effect Bruce Wayne’s life in the present. Thomas is portrayed as a good guy trying to act on good impulses that seem to backfire with the population he is trying to help. Hickman almost portrays Thomas Wayne in a shade of light that comes off as almost naive and villainous, even though he is a well-established doctor. For as long as I have read Batman novels and comic books, I always enjoyed the “good guy” aspect of Bruce’s father, but that image seems to get lost in this story. Thomas gets lost in the high brow community, with names and characters being thrown at you left and right. Some of these characters were nowhere near important to the overall story with pages dedicated to their introduction. Meanwhile, characters that were vital to the story were absent through most of the book allowing the reader to forget why they were important. Furthermore, chapters ran on a bit longer than necessary, with too much focus on minute details. The pace moves so slow at times that Hickman even repeats himself. During the last 30 pages, and the climax of our entire story, we get yet another origin description of the villains known as Scarface and the Ventriloquist. This origin story had already been established in the first part of the book. Yes, Batman has, in my opinion, some of the best developed and created villains of all comic book heroes. However, for “Wayne of Gotham”, favored characters such as the Joker and Harley Quinn, were thrown in as filler chapters that stray from the main story and continue to try to sell you on the book long after it has already been purchased.
We have already established that the story involves a game that is being played in the past that affects Gotham decades later in the present. Therefore, the book constantly shifts time frames, and I completely understand that. However, Hickman switches between past and present so much that he even confuses himself. At one point, the portion of the chapter switches back to the past, “October 26th, 1958”, and writes: “It looked as though Bruce Wayne was finally making some progress with Martha after all.” So Bruce is trying to court his own mother, Martha, several years before he is born? When did this turn into “Back to the Future”? Obviously, that portion should have read “Thomas Wayne.”
Of all the things I have stated already, my biggest gripe with the book was a particular scene at the end of the book. [Potential Spoiler] (As if you will read the book now). I have always been a big fan of the character, Batman. I appreciate what he represents, how he carries himself, and why he does what he does. Bruce Wayne and Batman stand for what is right and allow his (their?) decisions to be held with weight and responsibility. I have never heard, read, or seen either character scream for help at the top of their lungs.
[‘Help! Help me!’ Bruce’s shouts echoed down the alley. ‘Please! Somebody…’] -Batman
Yes, this ACTUALLY happens. Tracy Hickman, you can write a bad book. You can waste my time spent reading it or even my $27 spent buying it. But please, PLEASE do NOT destroy my outlook on one of my childhood heroes.
In case you are wondering whether you should buy the book “Wayne of Gotham”, save yourself the time and money and buy a good Batman book. The constant names, fake aliases, and tricky plot lines leave you not caring about the twists at the climax and the impact of the ending. Perhaps the novelization of “Batman: No Man’s Land” by Greg Rucka would be a better recommendaton. An author that knows how to portray the character and write a worthwhile story.