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BATMAN by Andrew Vachss

BATMAN

The Ultimate Evil

By Andrew Vachss

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1995
ISBN: 0-446-51912-X

 If you were floored by Robin Williams's genie in Aladdin, wait till you sink your fangs into the latest, and unlikeliest, pop-cultural marriage: child-abuse specialist Vachss (Footsteps of the Hawk, p. 982, etc.) meets the Caped Crusader. And what a crusade the novelist has for the superhero. A chance meeting with Gotham caseworker Debra Kane opens his alter ego Bruce Wayne's eyes to the myriad ways child abuse, not poverty or social injustice, breeds crime. Faithful butler Alfred, judging the time to be right, passes on documents left behind by Batman's mother that show that she was no mere housewife, but a sociologist investigating the systematic exploitation of children (and assassinated along with her husband because of her discoveries). These revelations are enough to send the Dark Knight into a righteous fury against casual muggers and rapists, gangsters and crooked cops, and finally the ringleaders in the procurement racket. First, witnesses to his summary handling of criminals note a new anger emerging; then, Batman resolves to go to the heart of this hydra-headed scourge by Batjetting to the mythical Asian land of Udon Khai and fomenting a revolution against the child-buyers. On the one hand, Batman's vigilantism makes him a natural hero for Vachss, whose customary persona Burke is practically a Batguy himself. On the other hand, Batman's adventures hereas he disposes of each lower-level pimp, then moves up to the next leveldon't have any more substantive content than a ``Destroy All Exploiters'' video game would; impatient readers who skip the entire novel and go directly to journalist David Hechler's disturbing appended essay, ``Child Sex Tourism,'' won't have missed a thing. More successful as a media event, then, than as a work of narrative art, however demotic. But Vachss himself would probably agree that staging events like this one to grab headlines is precisely his point.