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I couldn't wait for this book to come out, having enjoyed the first book in the DC Icons series, 'Wonder Woman: Warbringer', and because it was author Marie Lu that would be taking on the task of the story of the origins of the Dark Knight. I think that anyone taking on such an iconic character outside of graphic novels is pretty brave, but massively exciting! After reading 'Warcross' it seemed like Marie was primed to take this on.
First of all, as a reader of a story about such a notorious character as Batman, I needed to remind myself going in, that this wasn't the character with the mask and the cape and the gadgets. This is about a teen called Bruce Wayne, with his teenage friends, who still has the sad backstory of his parents being brutally murdered in an alleyway in Gotham City, and he is primed to now inherit the family fortune. He has barely realized his desire to rid the streets of the 'bad guys' yet, and he hasn't developed the emotional 'shield' that we witness in various popular incarnations of his character. It's like reading a fresh and quite naive version of the young Batman/Bruce Wayne we have all come to know, to the point that we are wondering if it's the same guy...until about the last quarter of the book, where the action picks up for young Bruce Wayne.
The novel seems pretty slow because from most of our recollections of this character, where he's usually busy doing what he does best: hauling in the crooks for the police department in Gotham City. In 'Nightwalker', Bruce Wayne is doing community service work inside Arkham Asylum (as you do), mopping floors, and talking to a mysterious and beautiful criminal called Madeleine (so there's quite a bit of talking and mind games, honestly). You get the sense that Bruce has a lot of personal work on himself to do, and has a long way to go before he's going to be a kick-ass crime-fighter (this girl really knows how to pull a fast one on him). But you see the beginnings of the Batman that eventually emerges and how his personal relationships are a vital catalyst for him. It's fun to read his interactions with his butler Alfred, and I'd love to have seen more of that, but that's probably out of familiarity that I say that.
Overall, it's a fun read, but low on action content (I hoped for more!), and I wanted more insight and a deeper window into his personal and emotional world; there could have been more development with his friends, especially given his age. This fits in pretty nicely after 'Warbringer' and I enjoyed reading the snippet of the Catwoman book at the very end; I have high hopes for that one too, even though I know less about that character. My son's biggest complaint (he's just ten), is that these well-known YA authors (to me!) are not doing his favorite Marvel Icons as well. Captain America, Adam Silvera?