According to his grandfather, Bruce Wayne was the descendant of knights who fought in the holy wars during the middle ages. More recently, “Waynes have participated in every battle fought in or about America.” They were, for an extended period of time, a righteous bunch.
But Bruce’s parents were a little different than all the other Waynes. Martha was a curvy vixen with a drinking problem, and Thomas hung out with mobsters and used his wealth and influence to finance questionable eugenics research. Their shared history was not squeaky clean. Ma and Pa Kent, they weren’t.
Ever obsessed with any crumb linked to his provenance, Batman has embarked on a “mad crusade” to uncover the truth about his deceased parents. But can he handle the truth? His faithful manservant doesn’t think so. “The past is the past,” says Alfred at one point, “and we have trouble enough on our own. Your parents are dead. Let them rest.”
As it turns out, Alfred is a very wise man indeed. He knows the truth can be a terrible beast and he’s trying his best to shield his employer from any further heartache. But as we all know, Bruce Wayne is a stubborn guy, especially when it comes to the details leading up to his parents murder. No one is going to sway him from his mission.
Wayne of Gotham bounces back and forth between two Wayne generations. We see how Thomas and Martha were corrupted by privilege and naiveté. And we follow Batman as he puts together the pieces of his parents’ downfall. As expected, everything leads to a big bang moment at the end of the novel. Along the way, a handful of pests show up (most notably the Joker, Harley Quinn, and a pair of Riddler henchwomen). These encounters don’t advance the plot in any significant way, but they underscore Batman’s mortality and his need to make sense of the world. The guy is 50 years old in this adventure and he’s definitely a half step slower than he used to be. He feels the weight of the world every time he slips into the batsuit.
Batman is the manifestation of events that began on the night Thomas and Martha were gunned down in Crime Alley (August 15, 1971, apparently). But given his family history, you get the feeling that Bruce Wayne would have morphed into the Dark Knight regardless of those tragic events. The sins of the father, after all, are to be laid upon the children.
[Wayne of Gotham / By Tracy Hickman / First Printing: June 2012 / ISBN: 978-0062074201]