Nightwalker is the second novel in the DC Icons series. It’s written by YA author Marie Lu and features a teenaged Bruce Wayne on the cusp of coming into his inheritance. The DC Icons series depicts legendary DC characters at a time of their lives that is rarely explored – their teenage years. The first book, Warbringer (reviewed here), featured Wonder Woman and two more volumes are promised, featuring Catwoman and Superman.
This second novel is a great continuation of the series. Here are five reasons to read Nightwalker.
1: It’s Batman!
The enduring appeal of Batman makes this novel immediately attractive. I think everybody understands Batman. There’s something in him that appeals to all of us.
2: It’s an origin story without being that origin story.
The continual reappearance of the Batman origin story has almost become a trope in its own right (“Martha!”). These DC icons series face an interesting problem. They fill in the stories of some of our favorite heroes’ teenage years. In the case of Bruce Wayne, at this point in his life, he inevitably must be some sort of proto-Batman, but we don’t want to read about the death of his parents again.
We don’t want yet another view of the shooting of Thomas and Martha Wayne, (though that is referenced in the book) so how to describe the evolution of Bruce into Batman? Marie Lu handles this extremely well, taking the story in a new (to me, at least) direction, and opening up Bruce Wayne’s character as he stands on the cusp of adulthood.
3: It’s a great riff on the Dark Knight theme.
What makes Batman interesting is his duality. It’s why he’ll always beat Superman (in this writer’s opinion!). The struggle between light and dark. The end justifying the means. These are the attributes that make Batman perennially engaging. Lu understands this and runs with it. Her introduction of the mysterious Nightwalker, Madeleine, explores the line between good and evil, hero and vigilante, criminal and freedom fighter. Bruce is plagued by questions of whether he and Madeleine are the same. Whether, in the eyes of the law, it is only his money and connections that separate his behavior from hers.
Lu uses the dualities in both characters to great effect, setting up a third delicious duality in the relationship between Bruce and Madeleine.
4: It takes place in Arkham
Gotham city is one of the most evocative settings of any comic book, and Arkham is one of the most evocative settings in Gotham. Which is probably why Lu sets of most of her book there. Not only does she draw on the menace of the inmates, and the potentially unethical practices of the staff, there is also the weight of history and comic book legend. The legacy of Gotham’s villains goes unmentioned but it is ever-present in the stone walls of Arkham.
5: There are thrills aplenty.
None of the above would matter if the book wasn’t exciting. It is! The tension ebbs and flows, the frisson between Bruce and Madeleine, allows plenty of room for twists, turns, and double bluffs. The book contains some genuine surprises, one or two more obvious reveals, and some great set pieces.
All in all, Nightwalker is an excellent continuation of the DC Icons series, that started strongly with Warbringer. Both books are excellent fiction that captures the essence of two of comic book fiction’s most enduring heroes as they stand on the cusp of their destiny. It’s a great space to tell a story in and, with Nightwalker, Lu adds depth to both Bruce Wayne and Batman.
Disclaimer: Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review. The next book in the series will be Catwoman by SJ Maas.