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Chris Wildgoose

Batman: Nightwalker (The Graphic Novel)

Orphan Bruce Wayne is freshly 18 and freshly come into the trust fund he inherited from his parents. He gets in trouble his first night by trying to chase down a member of the notorious Nightwalkers gang. They’ve been targeting rich citizens of Gotham and stealing their money to give to the poor. His brief moment of vigilantism lands Bruce in big trouble: a period of probation working as a janitor in Arkham Asylum. Madeline Wallace, a girl who’s been arrested and committed for being in the Nightwalkers, draws Bruce’s attention. They begin a cautious and barbed relationship as Bruce tries to figure out who exactly they are and how to stop them. Madeline may be his only lead, but she’s reluctant to talk. Who is she, really? Whose side is she really on?

This is another adaptation of a “DC Icons” YA novel, this time originally by Marie Lu. Unlike with Wonder Woman, it feels like we hardly get to see Bruce Wayne before he became Batman, so this felt like a nice change of pace. We see the same determination, smarts, and inquisitiveness that led him to become the World’s Greatest Detective, but he’s not there yet. It shows readers that all heroes, even those without special powers, start somewhere!

However, I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief because even as an 18-year-old, Bruce still seemed overpowered. He was performing acrobatic stunts that I would assume Batman could do, but not Bruce at 18. He kept a relatively cool head in high-charged situations, which as we all know is hard for teenagers to do. I wonder if Bruce had maybe started training to become a vigilante before the events of this novel. If there was mention of Bruce training at martial arts and detective work in the original novel, it was lost in translation.

As is ever my nitpick with YA novels, there is another (to me) forced romance in this one. It didn’t even seem like a romance to me, but other characters insisted it was – what? There was very little introspective inner dialogue from Bruce that wasn’t directly related to the Nightwalkers mystery. I felt blindsided and confused by it and don’t feel it served the story at all. Maybe it was fleshed out more in the original novel, but if this was all they were going to do with it in the graphic novel, it would have been better to cut it out altogether.

To make up for the somewhat unbelievable story, the art was superb. Classic Batman colors are used to maximum effect: blue-gray overall with bright yellow highlights. It would have been very easy to overdo the yellow, but it was used carefully and sparsely, to ensure maximum emotional or action-packed impact. The backgrounds and landscapes are rendered somewhat realistically, while the figures have overly sharp and angular features to suggest the hardness Gotham has beaten into them.

While I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief for a few aspects of this story, this is still a good old-fashioned Batman mystery set before Bruce Wayne as Batman exists. The sharp art elevates this graphic novel adaptation.

– Kathleen

Lu, Marie, Stuart Moore, and Chris Wildgoose. Batman: Nightwalker (The Graphic Novel). 2019.

Where We Live: A Benefit for the Survivors in Las Vegas

Where We Live is a riveting comics anthology to benefit survivors from the horrific shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, that killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more.

As with any anthology, this collection will not suit everyone’s tastes and pair that with a graphic novel format, and there are some illustration styles that will not appeal to everyone. However, this anthology included some big names such as Brian Michael Bendis, Neil Gaiman, Kurt Busiek, Jeff Lemire, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gail Simone, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Mike Mignola and they all brought their A-game.

My Favorites:

Whoa, You’re From Vegas? What’s That Like? by Warren Wucinich

This opening story was a great choice to kick off the anthology- for it showed that Las Vegas isn’t just a tourist mecca, it’s a vibrant city that people live in, hence the title of the book.

All The Possibilities of Paper by W. Haden Blackman & JH Williams III

A powerful essay is shown on a splash page that hits you in the gut, especially if you are a parent and worried about school shootings.

Everything After by Justin Jordan & Tom Fowler

A poignant look at how everyday workers in the city, in this case, a female bus driver, can get sucked into a tragedy.

A Simple Twist of Fate by Jeff Boison & Tyler Boss

An almost wordless story about how careless remarks can be regretted especially when tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Ghost by W. Haden Blackman & Richard Pace

Can one parent’s anguish be enough of a voice for change? What if it’s many?

Biography of a Bullet by Scott Bryan Wilson & Cliff Chiang

This two-page story hit home with the message of bullets having their target’s invisible names written on them. I was already affected by it when I saw the word DeKalb at the bottom- one of the many locations of a mass shooting- which is a nearby town and the location of Northern Illinois University, my alma mater, which was the site of a shooting in 2008.  I teared up at this story due to the personal connection.

The Watershed by Gary Spencer Millidge

A ghostly girl starts to speak to a movie hero about the danger of glamorizing guns and how the Second Amendment was written at a very different time and thus shouldn’t be compared to today.

The Deadliest Man by James Robinson, Dean Kotz & Stefano Gaudiano

Two men from different eras, 1781 and 2018, are both hunting in the woods with guns of their time when they inexplicitly meet with deadly results.

Daddy’s Little Girl by Erica Schultz & Liana Kangas

This sad story details how mental illness can tie into gun violence and the role that concerned family might need to take if they suspect the potential for escalating violence.

Stains by Cameron Stewart

A comics artist is shown drawing ultra-violent scenes that are read by many. In the end, his hands are not just stained with ink but blood.

Stopping Power by Alex Paknadel & Chris Wildgoose

When school violence has become a norm, a parent takes extreme precautions to safeguard their child.

Several stories recounted survivor’s stories which gave it added authenticity and weight. There were also many stories about gun control that offered different viewpoints. Many of the stories include statistics and share the many factors that play into gun violence in the US. Many of the comics were powerful and made me tear up, or even better, made me think about the issues beyond that page.

I have read several excellent graphic novel anthologies that benefit different causes- Love is Love to benefit the Orlando Pulse shooting survivors and Puerto Rico Strong to benefit the island after the devastating back to back hurricanes in 2017- but this one is the best. Its varied artists and authors came together to create a nuanced anthology about a tragedy that was entirely preventable if only there were tougher gun laws.  While this is a strong collection, I hope there is not a need to create this type of graphic novel again.

-Nancy

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