Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman

Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman is an exploration into the Wayne legacy and its role in Gotham’s early days and its current influence on the city as Bruce Wayne dons a cape and cowl and chases criminals as Batman.  Through a series of flashbacks to the 1950s, Bruce and the reader learn about his father, Dr. Thomas Wayne, and the family secrets.  Bruce is clearly not the only Wayne who has kept big secrets from the rest of the family and the outside world.

The parallels Hickman draws between Bruce and his grandfather, Patrick, are intriguing as both men tend toward the aggressive nature of their personalities and are not afraid to meet violence with violence.  Thomas, on the other hand, wants no part of that violent world, even though his father believes he should be able to defend himself.  However, in Hickman’s novel Bruce Wayne is middle-aged and feeling the impact of his year’s saving Gotham from criminals as Batman, and his reliance on technological advances in his suits and cars tells a far greater tale of this aging hero.

“The garden was dead.  The roses had gone wild and died during the succession of winters without care.  Their gnarled limbs reached up like claws from the edges of the footpaths, which were covered in dead leaves decomposing into dirt.  The prize lilacs his mother had been so proud of now reached up menacingly over the walls.  The garden had gone native, weeds choking and obscuring the careful planning that now lay buried ad barely recognizable.”  (Page 35)

What’s interesting about Hickman’s take on the comic character and his family is that Batman uncovers a past that is not as rosy as he expects about his father.  Dr. Thomas Wayne and his work with Dr. Richter are more than his son can digest in one sitting, but Batman is hardly given the chance to do so as he’s being drawn deeper and deeper into a spider’s trap as ghosts from the past seek to right the wrongs of the past.  Through a series of surprising turns connected to the German Nazis, eugenics, and more, Batman is confronted with a father who is not as perfect as he thought and he must reconcile what he has learned with what he thought he knew about the man.

The criminal mastermind here is slightly obvious from early on, but that is not as bothersome as the incessant talk early on about Batman’s vehicles and gadgets, which don’t necessarily add to the plot especially when the narration focuses on the evolution of the Batmobile from its early incarnations to the present.  However, that’s a minor drawback that fades away once the novel gets going.  Hickman has clearly done his research into several incarnations of the Batman myth, but the plot movement with the entrance of criminals, like The Joker, is abrupt on occasion as their motivations are unclear and the catalyst of their involvement is murky until the end.

Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman is a satisfying read for those interested in the past of the Wayne family and its role in the rise and potentially the degradation of Gotham City.  Warring within each of these men is the duty to do good and the desire to just be free and follow their passions.  The relationship between Thomas Wayne and his father is clear from the beginning, but the relationship between Thomas and his son Bruce is less clear as Bruce himself is unsure how to view his father in light of the secrets revealed.  In many ways, this novel may have worked better as a graphic novel, but Hickman does a good job sticking to the origins of the character and bringing in unique story lines to fill out the ancestry of Wayne family.  By the end of the novel, it would also seem that more needs to be said and uncovered, especially when the second son of Thomas and Martha Wayne is alluded to, but not seen.

About the Author:

Tracy Hickman is a best-selling fantasy author, best known for his work on Dragonlance as a game designer and co-author with Margaret Weis, while he worked for TSR. He married Laura Curtis in 1977, and together they have four children.

This is my 59th book for the New Authors Reading Challenge 2012.

Mailbox Monday #186

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Mrs. Q Book Addict.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton, which I won from Peeking Between the Pages.

2.  Eyes, Stones by Elana Bell, which I received from the American Academy of Poets and which won the Walt Whitman Award.

3.  Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman, which I received from the Harper Collins for review.

What did you receive?