I’m a big Batman fan – have been from the moment I peeked over my brother’s shoulder and saw Batman: The Animated Series for the first time. So a book about Batman? This should have been right up my alley. (
My Crime Alley I’M SORRY, BRUCE!)
I should give you a head’s up, shouldn’t I? This post is going to go into FULL geek out mode and there’s going to be spoilers for the book. If comics and superheroes and disgruntled readers aren’t your cup of tea – perhaps you should skip this post. If they are: hello and welcome …
by Marie Lu
THE PROBLEMATIC AND IMPROBABLE PREMISE
- You are eighteen years old.
- You’ve just come into your trust fund.
- You are a billionaire.
- You crash your car in order to catch a criminal, accidentally disrupting a police chase
- You are sentenced to community service in an insane asylum that houses the criminally insane. For example serial killers and rapists and your friendly neighbourhood murderous nut-jobs
- while there, you become drawn to Madeleine, a girl your age with a ‘canopy of eyelashes’ who has hair which ‘spills over her shoulders like a river of midnight’
- who, coincidently, IS ACCUSED OF MURDERING THREE PEOPLE IN COLD BLOOD
THE LOVE INTEREST – BRUCE, OL’CHUM, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?
Listen. Batman has made some questionable decisions in the love department. (*cough* Talia Al Ghul *cough cough*) Remember that episode in B:TAS where he married that literal plant lady?* At least he had an excuse for it – Poison Ivy had pollen’d him.**
Maybe the author was trying to continue this trend. But Catwoman exists (and that book in the DC Icons series doesn’t, okay?) and I have some objections to Madeleine …
a) she is described farrrr too much: entire paragraphs are dedicated to her, her hair, her eyelashes, her eyes, her face, her personality etc etc.
… her hair spilling behind her like a dark ocean.page 117
b) remember that scene from Sherlock – the one where he’s deduces ‘your sister has a drinking problem and you’ve got PTSD and enjoy crumpets with raspberry jam for breakfast’? Madeleine does this. But about Bruce’s emotions. Through prison glass. Based on a handful of interactions.
This leads me to conclude that Bruce must have a VERY expressive face. Which is probably why he covers it with a cowl. OHMYWORD THIS IS WHY HE BECOMES BATMAN!!
c) She tells a disguised Bruce that she knows who he is because of his gait. (Does he walk like a sideways crab? Is he from the Ministry of Silly Walks?)
d) She’s written as so goshdarn cool and aloof. (Bruce is impressed with her because she doesn’t look at her interrogators. She stares straight ahead. I should do the same. Maybe I’ll blink once in a while. It’ll blow his mind.)
There’s more, but it’s all far too much. Far. Too. Much. Is she a Mary-Sue? Hmmm. She isn’t quite a cardboard cut out complete with glorious hair – it’s simply that I strongly object to her. And her hair. She quotes Sherlock Holmes to a future Batman. IS NOTHING SACRED?!!
BRIEF PAUSE FOR A FOOD ANALOGY
It’s like some cookies I once made. I thought to myself – you know what I like? Cookies. You know what makes them really good? Sugar and chocolate. *lightbulb moment* If I pour A TON OF SUGAR AND CHOCOLATE INTO THE MIX IT WILL MAKE THEM THE BEST COOKIES EVER.
They looked terrible, and tasted worse.
Madeleine is the cookie. Sugar and chocolate are the coolness factors. A blue whale’s worth of weight has been poured in. It doesn’t work. You can have too much of a good thing. In fact, you can have so much of it that it needs to be binned and you need to find a new recipe.
In fact, you need to actually use one.
BRUCE WAYNE –
BATMAN IN TRAINING
I didn’t mind the Bruce Wayne in the book too much. I could see slight influences of the Animated Series creeping in. But these were drowned out by two undeniable truths:
- He falls in love with Madeleine.
- He is too well-adjusted
Listen, Batman – for better or worse – is always
unless DC actually let him BE HAPPY FOR ONCE ultimately going to be that boy sitting beside the bodies of his dead parents. Lost. Alone. Hurting.
There wasn’t much of that in the book. It tries. But it felt a little clunky. As if it didn’t quite fit. Which is odd for a book about Batman. Most of the angst is about … something else. Or rather, someone else. Bruce has nightmares ‘haunted by shadows or dark halls or a girl with long black hair‘ and he does bond with Madeleine over having dead parents.
But I wasn’t sold on the idea that this Bruce Wayne was going to don a cowl and fight crime dressed as a bat, full of harnessed rage and never – ever – seeking therapy.
- I liked Bruce’s gym. It was VR and seemed really quite awesome.
- The technology in the story was rather spiffing.
- Alfred was in the story. Harvey Dent was given more character development.
- Hanging out in Gotham was quite nice
- The writing was good. (Even for the hair. It was very picturesque. I just didn’t understand why it was featured so prominently. Was it magical – like Rapunzul’s?)
Her long black hair hung straight and shining over her shoulders, glinting blue underneath the slivers of light slicing the floors and walls.PAGE 180
TO SUM UP …
I guess we all have an idea of how our fictional heroes should be portrayed in our heads. What I might think is authentically Batman, others might think is terrible and wrong. And vice versa. And that’s okay.
I don’t usually venture too far into the world of YA genre, so perhaps my views are already slightly skewed. Perhaps Madeleine is the way all YA heroines are written. Either way … this book wasn’t for me. I enjoyed a few parts of it, and was terribly frustrated with the rest.
… you know what I have enjoyed though? Batman GIFS. There’s a veritable multitude!
*Batman: The Animated Series, Season 4, Episode 22 ‘Chemistry’
** YES, THIS IS A TERM I’VE JUST MADE UP. NO, I HAVE NO REGRETS.