Bruce Wayne, Gotham City’s dark knight, discovers that the primeval event of his life—the murder of his parents, Thomas and Martha—may hold clues to the nature of his worst enemies.
Industrious fantasy novelist Hickman (Embers of Atlantis, 2011, etc.) turns his attention to the weird world of Batman in this noir-tinged thriller. To assemble his plot, the author has gone back to Batman’s well-known origin, doing his fair share of retconning along the way. For the casual fan, the superhero will be just as familiar, armed with Teflon-coated Batarangs and rumbling around Gotham in the pimped-up Batmobile. But the book spends equal time with Bruce’s father, Thomas, a doctor who is enraptured with his future wife, Martha Kane. But the good doctor is also using the Wayne fortune to finance research into eugenics, the science of manipulating human populations. Back in the present, Bruce/Batman keeps running into lunatics like Harley Quinn, who seem to believe that they are long-dead contemporaries of Thomas, and that Bruce is in fact Thomas. As Batman, Wayne uncovers his father’s part in the creation of the ’50s-era gang of vigilantes called The Apocalypse. The conspiracy bits of the book struggle a bit with explication, but Hickman does a nice job of measuring the bleakness of the late-’50s set story with a blend of action, technology and the high-pitched madness that Batman inspires.
Neither as grim as its cinematic counterpart nor as byzantine as the current comics, but casual readers and fanboys alike may be caught off guard by this divergent adventure.