Review: Batman Nightwalker (DC Icons #2) by Marie Lu

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Batman Nightwalker by Marie Lu is the second in the DC Icon superhero series! I really love what these authors are doing with this books…they’re all famous and amazing YA authors who are each taking a turn writing a teenage-centric story about our favourite DC superheroes origins stories. And since Batman is one of my favourite ever heroes, I was really excited to see what Marie Lu would do! I was a bit surprised it wasn’t more focused on Batman himself, but this is about the world’s most famous teenage billionaire: Bruce Wayne.

The story basically begins with Bruce accidentally getting involved in a highspeed car chase to catch a criminal. Only problem is: he’s a civilian and absolutely not supposed to do that. He’s charged with preventing justice and has to serve community service. Bruce is a little disenchanted with life at the moment, feeling lost now that he’s officially 18 and has come into his fortune and misses his parents a lot. He wants the world they envisioned but he doesn’t know how to get there. (Basically he has a total heart of gold.) Then he gets stuffed into Arkham Asylum to serve his community service…as a janitor. But it’s there that he meets Madeline, member of the infamous Nightwalker murderer gang. They target billionaires and Bruce could very well be next on their list.

The story is definitely pre-Batman, so it wasn’t a nod to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy — but more a story woven all it’s own. It has references to everyone you love from the originals, of course, but it’s also a very sold standalone.

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It also features a bit of a mystery plot, with Bruce trying to figure out what the Nightwalker gang are up to. Madeline, refusing to talk and constantly locked in a cell in the asylum, gradually warms up to Bruce and they begin having a conversation. She was a stunning antihero, full of complex values and a good dash of danger. You can’t tell if she’s manipulating Bruce or she really cares about him. He ends up caring quite fiercely about her, despite knowing she’s part of a murder-gang. Because is she everything she appears to be?

Bruce himself was was a winning character that you definitely want to root for. Although, I’ll be honest, he’s basically a textbook Gryffindor, full of reckless bravery and a hunger for justice and fairness. He’s completely in love with the idea that the world can be better, but he goes about doing it in usually the wrong way. Which is great! Because that’s the teenage life! He like sees a person and he just gotta save ’em. He’s obviously extremely privileged and rich but he also was keen to not let that have him lead a spoiled or blinded life.

I liked seeing familiar names appear. Like Harvey Dent is in there and Gorden is mentioned. And then there’s Alfred, the light of the world. He’s the perfect mix of father, butler, and teacher with a side-dish of tea and British disapproval. He tells Bruce to slow down while driving and makes him breakfast and says he has 0% sympathy when Bruce does something stupid. Alfred is amazing!

Batman Nightwalker is definitely a fun addition to this DC Icon series! It’s not super dark, but it has a lot of twists and it’s great seeing how Bruce would grow up to be the man bat he is today.

Review: Secret Hero Society – Study Hall of Justice by Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen

9781760276539The cynic in me wanted to view Derek Fridolfs’ and Dustin Nguyen’s Secret Hero Society: Study Hall of Justice as a perfunctory vehicle to spotlight younger versions of DC comics heroes and villains ahead of the release of the blockbuster film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But I’m a sucker for the DC’s ‘trinity’ – Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman – and I’m a long-time admirer of Dustin Nguyen’s art. So despite my hesitations, I pulled a copy from the shelf and dived in… and I was more than pleasantly surprised. I was delighted. This is a book that’ll have both adults and kids in stitches, scouring pages for inside jokes and references, and enraptured by the core mystery. In other words, it’s a winner.

Young Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent and Diana Prince form their own Junior Detective Agency in the halls of Ducard Academy in Gotham City when they realise there’s more to their new boarding school for ‘gifted’ children than meets the eye. They’re an oddball triumvirate, each displaying the divisive characteristics that’ve been portrayed in the comics for decades. Together, they unravel the mystery behind the school’s secret headmaster, overcoming the villainous obstacles in their way including fellow students Lex Luthor, Harley Quinn and the Joker, as well as dastardly school staff including General Zod, Hugo Strange, Vandal Savage, and so forth.

Secret Hero Society: Study Hall of Justice is layered with references that young fans and older will enjoy – but every element is explicated well enough to ensure the layman won’t be left lost and confused. This is fundamentally a story about friendship – how different personalities, regardless of upbringing, can be moulded into an effective team – with a good amount of super-heroics thrown in. It’s told through traditional comic book pages, journal entries, pamphlets, text messages, and report cards, and the variation enhances the tale’s readability. The only flaw I identified was the novel’s pacing. The story takes its time to get going – it’s not plodding, but necessarily measured in order to establish the characters and their world – but in contrast the climax feels rushed, like suddenly the storytellers realised they were running out of pages. It’s not a major issue, and it certainly doesn’t take away from the novel’s successes, but it’s a noticeable stumble.

This is the kind of book I wish had been around when I was a kid. It’s fun and quirky, but doesn’t talk down to readers. I’d love to see further adventures in this universe, and there’s certainly a ton more characters to explore from the DC Universe.

Buy the book here…

Comic Books to Read if You’re Excited for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

We’re mere days away from the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and if you’re like me, you’re both excited and slightly trepidatious about the flick. Thankfully, regardless of the film’s success and quality (my fingers are crossed for both despite my reservations about Man of Steel) there’re a bunch of collected editions and graphic novel worth checking out.

9781401256982Batman vs Superman: The Greatest Battles

Essentially a ‘greatest hits’ collection of some of The Man of Steel and The Dark Knight’s encounters, it includes work from writers such as Frank Miller, Scott Snyder, Jeph Loeb and Geoff Johns, as well as art by Jim Lee, Greg Capullo and Ed Benes. If you’re looking for the battles without the context, this collection is for you!

Buy from Boomerang Books.

 

 

 

 

HushBatman: Hush

Written by Jeph Loeb with art by Jim Lee and Scott Williams, Hush is the epic crime thriller that rejuvenated The Caped Crusader. And sure, while its predominantly a Batman story, there’s a brilliant battle with Superman in one of its early chapters – – which sees The Dark Knight equipped with his trusty Kryptonite ring taking on a mind-controlled Man of Tomorrow.

Buy from Boomerang Books.

 

 

 

DKRBatman: The Dark Knight Returns

There’re few Batman stories more iconic than Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Set ten years after an aging Batman has retired and Gotham City has sunk deeper into decadence and lawlessness, the city now needs him more than ever. But after facing off against two of his greatest foes, it’s his battle with old ally Superman that truly resonates… because only one survives!

Buy from Boomerang Books.

 

 

 

 

Batman v Superman LoebBatman/Superman, Volume 1

Y’know, when they’re not butting heads, Superman and Batman are actually mates. In this first volume of Jeph Loeb an Ed McGuinnes’ Superman/Batman series, the iconic super-heroes unite when Lex Luthor, now president of the United States, accuses Superman of a crime against humanity, and assembles a top-secret team of powerhouse heroes to bring Superman in – dead or alive!

Buy from Boomerang Books.

 

 

 

TrinityTrinity

When Batman’s greatest nemesis, Ra’s al Ghul, recruits Bizarro and an Amazon warrior to aid him in his plan to create global chaos, the Dark Knight Detective suddenly finds himself working with the Man of Steel and the Amazon Princess. Looking to thwart the madman’s plot to simultaneously destroy all satellite communications as well as all of the world’s oil reserves, Earth’s greatest heroes reluctantly band together. But if Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman are to have any hope of stopping Ra’s’ nuclear missile assault, they will first need to overcome their own biases and reconcile their differing philosophies.

Buy from Boomerang Books.

What To Gift Part 1 – Converting Non-Booklovers with Batman

I love finding books under my Christmas tree but not everyone agrees. It is the sad fact of Christmas shopping even the most ardent bibliophile is occasionally forced to confront. Despite our extensive research into the best books and our loving efforts at picking out the perfect text, not everyone wants a book. In fact, for some people, a book is closer to the “soap on a rope” end of the gifting spectrum than a soap on a rope.

I know; they are scuppering your plans of ordering every Christmas present online at once and then spending until Christmas laughing at panicking shoppers. Books are also wonderfully easy to wrap – no awkward spiky or squishy bits here. People who don’t appreciate their booktitude are clearly delusional and wrong and should be forced – at gunpoint if necessary – to read until they damned well learn to enjoy it. You are preaching to the choir here, or would be if the choir wasn’t off book-shopping.

But the truth is that some people simply don’t enjoy reading novels and long texts and there is no point continuing to insist on gifting them with books, no matter how awesome, unless they need either kindling or doorstoppers. But if those people are movie fans, do not despair – you may be able to pick them up something that is bookshaped and available in bookstores, if not actually what you might traditionally think of as a book.

You just need to try a fresh approach – gifting a graphic novels. No, you don’t refer to these as comic books and they’re not just for kids. They are cinematic stories, usually with lush visuals, amazing effects and great characters – all the things that you would expect to find in great movie. Many of them have become great movies.  While everyone knows about the superheroes that made the leap to the big screen (Spiderman, Superman and Batman, oh my) you’ll find a lot of the plots of more cerebral movies come straight from the pages of a graphic novel.

Examples that recently made the transition to the big screen include Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Warren Ellis’s RED and Frank Miller’s 300 and Sin City. All “This. Is. CHRISTMAAAAAS!” jokes aside, 300 is stunning book about heroism and sacrifice, reimagining the battle in which 300 Spartan soldiers fought to hold back the entire Persian army. The series won five Eisner Awards, including Best Writer/Artist (Miller), and much like the movie, this is not one for kids. Also not for kids but a definite for the rebels, revolutionaries and Hunter S. Thompson fans in your life is Warren Ellis‘s Transmetropolitan.  (You can read the first issue of the comic here.) It follows the adventures of Spider Jerusalem, chain-smoking and swearing gonzo reporter of the future, as he battles corrupt politicians, general idiocy and society in general. (Some readers may find it a bit too lewd, crude and challenging. As a litmus test, if they find swearing offensive, this might be one best to leave out of their stocking.)

If you are dealing with either a younger reader, you might be better off going straight for the superhero novels – X-Men and Superman and Spidey. While there are many superhero graphic novels out there, you’ll find on reading them they are less “put on pants over tights and FIGHT CRIME” and more interested in what makes their characters tick.

This allows you the dual pleasure of insisting that this is a mature gift and allowing you to liven up Christmas dinner with philosophical discussions on who would win in a fight, Superman or Batman.

And the answer to that one is, of course, Batman. If you’re not clear why, you need to read more graphic novels. I suggest Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, and then following up with Alex Ross’s stunningly beautiful Kingdom Come.

You can never have too much Batman. In fact, if anyone wants to buy me something for Christmas that isn’t a book – well, you know where to send any caped crusaders. I just have no idea how you are going to wrap him.