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Tag Archives: novel

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 Shaft, by Ernest Tidyman

10 Nov

November 10, 2018

Shaft is a deep book. Oh, not in the sense that it touches on deep issues and ponders difficult sociopolitical questions, but in the sense that it puts you in Shaft’s head and he thinks deep thoughts about everything.

Every freakin’ thing.

Reading this book I wonder if Shaft has ever had a happy day in his life. The book can be a ponderous read at times because Shaft ponders everything. Nothing is just surface, everything is fodder for Shaft’s dark and dolorous musings. There’s a dark cloud behind every beam of sunlight in Shaft’s world. There are bad intents behind every person Shaft sees in the street, and in every glance Shaft sees the bad behind the good. To be fair, Shaft comes by that worldview honestly, and it serves him well in his job, but even when the case is wrapped and Shaft is playing a board game with a child, he’s deep in brooding. And what is he brooding about? How the child beat him in the game, and Shaft will get better and beat him next time, then have to let the kid win after that because, after all, he’s an adult playing a kid in a kid’s game. Even downtime with a young child brings out the rain clouds.

Does Shaft ever smile?

Despite all that, I liked the book. It feels like a slice of the seventies and this is a book that could only have been written in that era. On the other hand, it deals extensively in stereotypes. Every black person is a militant or a drug dealer. Every Italian is connected to the Mafia. Every white girl wants to sleep with a black man and every white man is afraid of the black man. I would stop short of saying there is anything truly racist about this book, but I can see the arguments. However, Shaft does have some clearly anti-Semitic thoughts about the Jews, making the title of the next book, Shaft Among The Jews, more intriguing.

I read the book because I always like reading the source material behind classic films, and the movie Shaft is an undisputed classic. The big question is, of course, is the book better than the movie? I have to say no. I enjoyed the movie much more. Even if I was listening to Isaac Hayes’ soundtrack as I read the book I couldn’t help but feel like Shaft is not a character I’m in a hurry to revisit, at least in literary form.

 

 

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