Wayne of Gotham is released in paperback this week. The novel is from It Books (an imprint of HarperCollins) and is written by the New York Times bestselling author, Tracy Hickman. Hickman is probably best known for his work on Dragonlance. Wayne of Gotham tells the story of not one, but two Waynes. The story switches back and forth between Bruce Wayne and his father Thomas Wayne. Batman is forced to reopen the case that started his caped crusading. When someone starts playing games with Batman using details of his parent’s life that even he doesn’t know, he may be facing his biggest case yet.
The story starts off with Batman facing Spellbinder. What should be a routine takedown takes an interesting turn as Batman figures out that some of the criminal underworld is being used to play a game with Batman. It seems everyone’s memories have been tampered with and even Commissioner Gordon is out for Batman’s head. As Batman investigates, he finds something that happened in his father’s past directly relates to the game he has found himself in. Throughout the story we switch from present day with Batman to the late 1950s and a recently graduated from Harvard Medical School Thomas Wayne. Thomas’ best friend is Martha Kane. He wants more with Martha, but her beatnik ways and free spirit compared to his formal and proper manner keeps him in the friendzone. As he starts to work with a Dr. Richter, Thomas finds himself taking part in a project that will have haunt him and his son.
Hickman handles the story well. One thing to remember when reading this is that the author has stated before that this is not an in continuity story. On one occasion Hickman described it has his Elseworlds story. I point this out, because if you took it as in continuity things would strike you as odd. The world seems to be a mixture of the comics, animated series, Nolan movies, and a good dash of The Dark Knight Returns. All of the characters have some age on them. Bruce is roughly in his mid-50s and feeling the effects of it on his body. That makes for an interesting take on the character and can be looked over, but his interactions with Alfred feel uncharacteristic for the Batman we know. The tensions between Alfred and Bruce are a big part of the story and is interesting, but it is hard to accept if you don’t keep the not continuity bit in mind.
The story is full of nods to continuity and characters throughout. There are nods and hints at stories throughout Batman’s history, both the real DC Universe and the alternate reality stories we’ve seen as well. One of them most interesting segments is Batman looking back fondly at all of the Batmobiles he has had. The Batman tech is at a whole other level. There are things that fit in with the world and some that seem a little farfetched even for Batman.
Bottom Line: Hickman explores a segment of the Batman world we don’t really know much about. By switching between Thomas and Bruce, the family history we haven’t seen in the pages of the comics is ripe for exploration. The sins of the father have come to roost in the present. Batman is faced with his father’s past as someone recreates some events from Thomas Wayne’s darkest times. With an intriguing story, even if some actions feel uncharacteristic for the characters, makes for an interesting read for Batfans new and old.