This summer, Quirk Books, along with DC Comics, released Batman: Murder at Wayne Manor—an interactive mystery that immerses the reader into an ongoing investigation with facsimiles of the evidence introduced during the story. Written by crime novel author Duane Swierczynski with artwork provided by award winning comic book writer/ artist David Lapham, Murder at Wayne Manor leads readers on a path of mystery and intrigue dating back 30 years with the prime suspect being none other than Bruce Wayne’s own father, Thomas.Set earlier in the Dark Knight’s career as a costumed vigilante, Swierczynski’s Batman is dark and reflective. Surprisingly minimal, the story is gripping; introducing some of Gotham’s elite, both past and present—as well as a new villain for the book, the Black Mask of Fate. Readers assimilate the clues quickly; the paced natured of this story speeds things along quickly. The actual physical clues provide a tactile connection to the nuances of back story—some items include: a coaster from a nightclub, a photograph, hand drawn map, and a mini-newspaper. David Lapham’s artwork seems to be added more for flavor than for context; it adds some visualization of the characters…it is based on comic book characters, of course! As a story, it’s not bad—this is a book fit for a teen showing interest in crime noir or comic books. Priced at 24.95, it may seem a little steep when considering the size of the book and length of the story—but the facsimile clues probably add to the production bottom line. Overall, from the perspective of production, it has a very polished, high quality look. The “gimmick” of these types of books presents a problem, however. No matter how good the story is, no matter how nice the book looks—it’s only going to be good for one solid read-thru at best. There just isn’t enough material—and the story, because of its simple straightforward manner, really prevents any sort of longevity for the product. Smartly, the actual “reveal” of the story is bound behind a pseudo-sealed binding; but again, this “one trick pony” gimmick of sealing the evidence in such a manner kind of sets the project up for a slight amount of failure. Again, this type of thing would make a great gift for someone interested in comics or solid crime fiction around the ages of 12-15; after that, the book might come across as a little too simple for an adult reader. The facsimile evidence is a nice touch and gives the reader a minute of pause during the reading to think about events taking place in the story. The artwork assists in telling the story and gives the reader a chance to enhance their own ability to visualize the progress of the story. A great gift for kids, a decent collectible item for Batman fans, but it might be a little easy for the average comic readers of today.
Review: Batman: Murder at Wayne Manor
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