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My Review of Wayne of Gotham, by Tracy Hickman

27 Dec

December 27, 2018

I guess there is only one Batman story possible, because in Wayne of Gotham we’ve seen it all before. Batman reopens the Wayne murder case. Again. Thomas Wayne may have been mixed up with criminals, or been one himself. Again. A rift between Bruce and Alfred. Again. The writing was good enough to keep me reading but the plot? Nah. And the characterization? Since when does millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne disguise himself as an invalid and have Alfred push him around in a wheelchair, in the privacy of his own estate, in the hopes that a paparazzi will jump a fence and snap his picture a ‘la Howard Hughes? When was Alfred promoted from butler to Bruce Wayne’s public relations flack and a high level Waynecorp officer? To be fair, this book suffers from coming out within just a few short years of Grant Morrison’s amazing Batman run, which dealt with the Wayne murder and Bruce’s backstory in a much more interesting way. (DC is once again dealing with this in their current comics.) It is just a shame that Hickman felt that the same ground had to be covered yet again. Where is the originality?

Now that I have finished the book, I have a few questions. When did this take place? It claims to be Batman’s final case but there is no sense of where this occurs in his career. Where were Dick Grayson or any of the regular supporting Bat-cast? And worse- did Tracy Hickman know anything at all about Batman before starting the book? Batman has always been about the man inside the suit, not about the Batsuit, yet Hickman seemed enamored of the technology. Tons of words were wasted on the gyros in the Batsuit, the power cells in the utility belt, the way the Batmobile connects to the power grid. Is this Iron Man or Batman? In Iron Man the technology is a vital part, in Batman it is merely there. The Joker’s quote from the 1989 movie had it right- “where does he get those wonderful toys?” They are just toys, tools, nothing more; yet to read this book, you’d think it was Tony Stark in the Batman outfit.

This Batman was full of doubts and paranoia. He had none of the confidence of the Batman we have known for years. I found myself not caring about him.

The Joker had a tiny, bit part, probably because Hickman assumed the Joker turns up in every single Bat story. He was used to zero effect here. And again, does Hickman know anything about the Batman universe? The Joker was described as wearing old, cracked white greasepaint. No, the Joker’s face is white already, no paint needed. How did an editor let that slip by?

By the end, the plot had grown confusing and uninteresting, the characters were either unlikable or poorly characterized, and the writing average. I give the book one star because aside from all my criticism, the real problem with the book is that the plot was horrible and not only did not hold my interest, it seemed designed to confuse and annoy the reader.

 

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My Review of The Whispering Gorilla, by Wilcox and Reed

8 Dec

December 8, 2018

The Whispering Gorilla by Don Wilcox & Return of the Whispering Gorilla by David Reed.

Wow, where to begin?

First, if you have not checked them out, look at the other titles published by Armchair Fiction. They publish a huge number of stories from the pulp era.

As for this book, it may be the best story of a gorilla with the transplanted brain of a man fighting Nazis that I have ever read. On the other hand it is also the worst. (I’ve only read one, of course.)

And that really does sum up this book. The first story is short, about 79 pages, but it is a fast read and deceptive. It reaches 79 pages only because it is printed in a larger font than the longer second story. However, it is the better of the two. It is written in a simple and straightforward style but it is surprisingly realistic. Although the Whispering Gorilla talks like a man and dresses and acts like a man, he is still in the body of a gorilla. A sillier story (and yes, I know how silly this already sounds) would have him simply accepted as a talking gorilla. But that never happens in this book. Everyone suspects he is a very eccentric man in a gorilla suit to hide his identity. Not for a second does anyone think he is a real gorilla. As for the plot, the gorilla continues his previous human life as a crusading journalist (whom everyone thinks is a man in a gorilla suit, for some reason) and brings down a ring of war profiteers, before apparently dying at the hands of the police. Ridiculous as it sounds, it is a fun tale.

The second, longer story, is written by another, arguably better, author. I say “arguably” because while the writing is more complex and sophisticated than in the first, the plot is ridiculously laughable. The Whispering Gorilla did not die at the end of the first book but was secretly transported back to Africa to recover at the home of the scientist who created him. The problem is that he is slowly losing his humanity, while also becoming leader of all the jungle apes. Well, if it stopped there, this could be a somewhat interesting variation on Tarzan. Problem is the author didn’t stop there. The Whispering Gorilla is not the main character in this story. Neither is the scientist, who had a large part in the first book. Here, the scientist is bed-ridden and does little at all. The main plot is about a group of Nazis who plan to train gorillas to command submarines to sink allied destroyers. In the jungle!

I’ll let that sink in. A group of Nazis who plan to train the gorillas to command submarines to sink allied destroyers.

To that end, they build silly gorilla-sized ships and submarines on wheels and ride them around the jungle like oversized tricycles to teach the gorillas maneuvers that will destroy the enemy ships. This takes only a couple of days, believe it or not,  and the head Nazi is ready to put his plan into action. To say it doesn’t work is really not necessary, is it? The rest of the plot is about resistance fighters and a beautiful girl, with whom the gorilla -of course- falls in love.

This was certainly one of the stranger books I’ve read. I really enjoyed the first story. It was a great example of 40’s pulp fiction. The second story had delusions of grandeur and never lived up to the fun of the first. I’m glad I read it and I’ll probably reread the first story again, but not the second.


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