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Book review: ‘Wayne of Gotham’ includes unexpected story of Batman’s parents

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"Wayne of Gotham" by Tracy Hickman explores the lives of Bruce Wayne's parents.

“Wayne of Gotham” by Tracy Hickman explores the lives of Bruce Wayne’s parents.

Provided by the publisher

"WAYNE OF GOTHAM," by Tracy Hickman, It Books, $26.99, 304 pages (f)

A new Batman novel by Utah author Tracy Hickman explores the quest of who Bruce Wayne's parent are and the answer may be one readers aren't expecting.

Alternating between the present day and the late 1950s, “Wayne of Gotham” shows how Batman’s current case parallels disturbing events from his parents’ past, forcing him to admit how little he actually knows about them — an uncomfortable notion, considering he has patterned his entire life after avenging their deaths.

It’s true that most Batman stories pick and choose which aspects of the various continuities they wish to follow, and this is no exception. But Hickman does little more than summarize some of the better known back stories before veering off in a direction that is seemingly completely unsupported by current comic book arcs.

Hickman does avoid most of the regular characters, paying only brief homage to others, and in the meantime focusing a great deal on completely new ones with no history outside this novel. A risky move, this stands to earn him praise from those who find the new territory refreshing and interesting, but criticism from fans who pick up a Batman book with certain expectations. For example, the appearance of one notable villain comes as a welcome surprise, but it's short-lived.

Batman himself is somewhat unrecognizable. No one likes a bully, least of all one who bullies an old man — especially when that old man is Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler and confidant. Hickman channels some of the darkest iterations of Batman, including one who apparently has no problem killing.

In "Wayne of Gotham," there is coarse language and violent abuse and there is romance and sexual innuendo between his parents. Batman stories themselves are generally dark.

In the end, this novel doesn’t satisfy as much as other Batman novels, comics and films and is too distracted by a newly crafted history, slightly cheesy 1950s dialogue and somewhat repetitive exposition.

Andrew Bud Adams is a college writing instructor. He is married to an elementary school teacher and enjoys watching cartoons with his three children. He blogs at andrewbudadams.blogspot.com.