25th Sep2019

‘Batman: Nightwalker’ Graphic Novel Review (DC Ink)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Stuart Moore, Marie Lu | Art by Chris Wildgoose | Published by DC Ink | Format: Paperback, 208pp

batman-nightwalk-cover

The title of this graphic novel may seem familiar to some, and it should. Batman: Nightwalker was actually written as a prose novel by Marie Lu, for the DC Icons series of books. The higher ups at DC obviously liked it a lot and felt its story of a young Bruce Wayne finding his feet fit perfectly in their Young Adults line of books. As these books, all of which range from good to very good, feature primarily female characters, it didn’t hurt to throw a male lead in there too. Bruce did feature in the Selina Kyle book, though all these DC Ink takes are self contained and not connected, so ‘that’ Bruce isn’t ‘this’ Bruce. I like to think of them as Elseworlds books, these characters do exist but on Earth-66 or Earth-Young Adult. Marie Lu probably retained a degree of editorial say, but this graphic novel adaptation was written by Stuart Moore, no slouch in the comic book genre himself. Let’s take a look.

The prologue introduces us to a group called the Nightwalkers, some sort of class terrorist group out to target the wealthy. One of their group, Madeleine, is captured by the Gotham Police though all is not what it seems. Remember her, she’s pretty important as we go along. Next, we meet Bruce Wayne. Still an orphan, still hugely wealthy, and still being looked after by Alfred, this Bruce is eighteen years old and trapped by the world he has been born into. A former friend Richard seems to especially annoy him, the classic leech type of friend everyone has had at one time or another. His other friends, Dianne and Harvey Dent seem nice though. Bruce bails from a gala when he gets the chance to get involved in a police chase, chasing down another of the Nightwalkers, but in doing so puts himself, the police, and the police in danger. Even the rich need a kick in the pants sometime, and Detective Draccon has just the thing. Community service in Arkham Asylum. Say what now?

Yep, to teach young Bruce discipline and an awareness of how lucky he is, the courts decide on several weeks of community service in Arkham. He meets with the Head Warden, Dr. Zoe James, and gets to work. While in there he sees a young girl in a cell, with whom he strikes up a friendly relationship, or seems to. She could be playing him. The girl is Madeleine, who we met on Page 1. She knows who Bruce is, and he is the only person she will talk to. By the level of excitement, I would guess there is more to the Nightwalkers that we think, and the Warden seems awfully shifty too. Back in the real world, Bruce and former friend Richard come to blows, and Richard looks like he’s going all in on the revenge front too. What’s a Bruce to do?

Bruce wears a wire for the Police, and tries to get Madeleine talking about her group. Madeleine is clearly a very smart cookie, and knows she is being watched. Bruce strives to earn her trust, and going against orders sneaks into her cell to show her she can trust him. Their conversation is fascinating, two young people attracted to each other when they shouldn’t be, admiring qualities in each other though they have wildly differing philosophies on how to solve Gotham’s problems. One wants to bring down the wealthy, one wants to use that wealth to do goods. As with all star crossed lovers, this isn’t going to end well. For now, they bond, over being orphaned and what that does to a child. Madeleine also points Bruce towards some underground gun running that is going on. Again, playing him? Being genuine? Hmm.

Remember Richard? Bruce’s former friend is actually the son of Gotham’s Mayor, or was, as the Nightwalkers have killed the Mayor. Madeleine tells Bruce he was corrupt, funneling money to his rich cronies from people who need it. She tells Bruce he is on the hit list too, because of WayneTech’s work with the GCPD. Bruce rushes home, to find Wayne Manor hit and Alfred captured. Madeleine also escapes from Arkham and Bruce gets arrested for it (though innocent of course). Things escalate quickly, and I’ll gloss over some details but nothing is cooler than Bruce, Alfred, and Harvey Dent rushing to the rescue in Alfred’s car. What I will say is, this is the night that Batman was born.

On one level this is a story about destiny. Bruce was seemingly destined to become Batman, just needed a nudge in the right direction by events. His attraction to danger, and dangerous women, is also apparent here. Madeleine was destined for a darker path, due to her start in life and what happened to her mother. Their worlds shouldn’t have met, but they did. That is the second level, this is a love story. Bruce and Madeleine are in love but, as both know, it can’t last as it never should have started. Just like Romeo and Juliet, with which their story has more than a little in common. Including the ending. The irony is, by being bad for each other, Madeline actually made Bruce move in the direction that led to him wanting to protect the innocent, and become Batman.

Batman: Nightwalker was a solid read all the way through, with plenty going on, some nice nods to character and continuity elsewhere, and use of some timeless young adult themes. The dialogue between Bruce and Madeline was especially excellent throughout. The art, by Chris Wildgoose, was perfect for this story. Not too detailed, or too ‘arty’, but a perfectly pitched clean style, with nice layouts and great pacing throughout. Easy to follow, and if this was your first graphic novel a great introduction to the genre.

Nightwalker. When the boy became a (Bat) man.

**** 4/5

Batman: Nightwalker will be released by DC Ink on October 1st 2019.

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