The second book in the new DC Icons series produced by Penguin Books comes from YA stalwart Marie Lu, following up to Leigh Bardugo’s fantastic turn on Wonder Woman. I had my first experience with Lu in 2017, when I thoroughly enjoyed her cyber-punk gaming romp Warcross.
Batman Nightwalker follows much in this vein, a fun fast-paced adventure through the grimy streets of Gotham where we find teenage Bruce Wayne gaining his inheritance just as the Nightwalkers come to power.
The paperback and special edition hardback editions of Batman Nightwalker
In his first taste of vigilanteism, upon leaving his 18th birthday party, Bruce finds himself disobeying police orders and chasing down a criminal in a car. As punishment for his reckless behaviour, Bruce is ordered to spend community service on Janitorial duties at Arkham Asylum, Gotham’s infamous prison-cum-psychiatric institute. While working on an extra-secure floor where the most cruel criminals are kept, Bruce meets the beautiful, disarming Madeleine — a girl who will only speak to him. Drawn into police investigations focussing on Madeleine and the Nightwalkers, Bruce finds himself plunging into danger in order to save the city he calls home.
I genuinely enjoyed this pacy novel, which successfully brings the dark Gotham city to the YA genre. Batman as a character has been quite hit and miss for me in the past — I loved the cartoons of the 90s, and pretty much hated the whole Nolan run for being far too serious about itself. I think Lu’s Batman walks the line between light and dark well, showing Bruce’s foolhardy nature alongside his desire to do good, but set within a world that retains a smidgen of the light-heartedness of the original Batman portrayals. Alongside this, we are regularly fed hints of the man that Bruce will become as he is increasingly frustrated by both the law enforcement and endemic corruption in Gotham.
Madeleine Wallace makes an interesting new character to the Batman canon; a character who keeps her cards close to her chest and seeds thoughts and clues in Bruce’s mind. I was really into her cool demeanour and commitment to intricate origami.
I particularly enjoyed his best friend Dianne, who according to the acknowledgements is an insert of a close friend of Marie Lu (and you can tell, in a good way). I also enjoyed the storyline weaved with Harvey Dent, postured as the third member of this friendship group along with Bruce, bringing to light his troubled backstory.
Batman Nightwalker is a fast-paced, easy-read adventure through the streets of Gotham, best read in one single sitting — though I do warn you that you will become nervous about the locks on your doors and the technology in your home…
As with Wonder Woman, Penguin and DC Icons have released both a paperback edition and a special edition Hardback of Batman Nightwalker. Sarah J Maas fans will also be pleased to learn that it includes the first chapter of DCI Icons’ third book authored by her, Catwoman Soulstealer.
What to read next:
Thank you to Penguin Platform for sending me the copy of this to read.