Batman: Nightwalker is one of DC Comics’ new Young Adult novels within their DC Icons series. I have greatly enjoyed the new trend of YA books based on comic book characters. Previously, I had read the Wonder Woman: Warbringer novel by Leigh Bardugo – also from the DC Icons series, the Lois Lane trilogy from Gwenda Bond and the Miles Morales: Spider-Man from Jason Reynolds and Marvel Comics. Needless to say, I was greatly looking forward to picking up this installment.
Batman: Nightwalker features a much younger and more vulnerable Bruce than what readers are traditionally used to. In the novel, a 17-year-old Bruce Wayne gets caught up in the terror organization called the Nightwalkers after leaving a gala and following a perpetrator in a violent car chase. As punishment, Bruce is forced by the state to complete community service with a Detective Draccon mopping the floor of Arkham Asylum. The task is terrifying from the start considering Bruce is continually cat called by inmates but is quickly kicked up a notch when the elusive known killer, Nightwalker associate, and inmate Madeleine Wallace proves to be his only hope at avoiding becoming their next target.
At the start of the book Bruce is rash, angry, and despite Alfred’s best efforts, a tad spoiled. Bruce is haunted by his parents’ death and has difficulty relating to other teens his age due to his parents’ death and it’s very public nature. Throughout the book, Bruce categorizes people because so often he has been used by friends, paparazzi, and trusted allies. His reclusive bat-like nature clearly started young. One of my favorite aspects of this book is Bruce’s vulnerability. This is a teenager who is not quite yet the Batman. He still struggles at hiding his emotions and reeling in his anger. Multiple times through the book I related to Bruce’s sheltered upbringing. I have read many Batman stories and very rarely do I relate to Bruce.
While Batman: Nightwalker is not an origin story, it is also not a Year One. We meet Bruce ten years following the murder parents while he is on the cusp of adulthood. This story acts a prequel to a Year One without being an origin story by giving us more insight into the final catalyst that pushes Bruce to pick up the cowl. He has not yet begun training to be the Dark Knight outside occasionally frequently a boxing gym.
This is the rare Batman story that focuses more on Bruce than the Bat. There are a lot of hints to his future similar to the way Smallville hinted Clark’s future. Despite being a Bruce centric story, it is not devoid of action. Lu is a charismatic writer who is able to convey the same motion and action as a comic panel. Frequently, the biggest challenge with these books is keeping them to their comic origin.
Overall, Batman: Nightwalker is a fantastic and thrilling YA novel. There were moments that felt a little unrealistic but hardly anything inexcusable considering this a world featuring superheroes. The book is written at a 6th to 8th-grade level. I was able to complete it in one day. It is more of a thriller than a detective story but does genuinely feel like a young Bruce. This book is not considered within DC Universe (comic) canon but does create an interesting elseworld tale which is what DC is most known for.
Overall, Batman: Nightwalker is a fantastic and thrilling YA novel. There were moments that felt a little unrealistic but hardly anything inexcusable considering this a world featuring superheroes.