Note: I would post a “Spoiler Alert”, but that would imply there was something to spoil.
In his “Author’s Note”, the author states he wanted to “conceive [his] answer to such classic heroes as Batman, the Shadow and the Spider”. According to him, it took years “to try and flesh [the Wraith] out, to try and bring him to the world, or at least bring him out in such a way so that I myself could see him more clearly”. Then, in 2002; “my creative juices began to flow, and there was no turning back”. Personally, I would say that if this novel is an example of his “creative juices” flowing, I would hate to see what the author produces when he’s off on a plagiarising spree.
Why would I say this? Well, let’s see. The novel features:
• a major city which has fallen from the heights of its glory days to become a bastion of corruption and criminality (Gotham City/Metro City);
• a rich protagonist who lives in a mansion, has devoted his life to fighting crime as a black-caped vigilante swooping down on evildoers in whom he strikes fear (Bruce Wayne/Paul Sanderson-Michael Reeve), and repairs to an underground cavern (the Batcave/the Lair), complete with computers, training area, etc., with access through a secret passage in the library (indeed, even the elevator granting access to the underground cave sounds like it was “inspired” by the 1960’s television series);
• the hero’s assistants, who include an English butler (Alfred Pennyworth/Jonathan Simpson) and a reformed criminal turned inventor (Harold Allnut/Max Horton);
• a few honest police officers within a generally corrupt police department, two of whom are a tough, no-nonsense, vigilante-distrusting detective (Harvey Bullock/Bob Sloan) and his female Latin partner (Renee Montoya/Rosa Perez);
What else? Oh, right: the hero wears a dark suit with a cape and cowl, conceals coiled rope on his belt, which also has pouched compartments holding, among other things, gas pellets, and often perches among the gargoyles on the city’s rooftops. He uses the Eye of Judgment on criminals (cf. Ghost Rider’s Penance Stare). He “had sworn never to take a life, no matter what the circumstance”, and one of his earliest crime-fighting feats is foiling the attempted mugging of a couple, where the criminals “just wanted [the] cash an’ that necklace” (cf. the murder of the Waynes).
If none of this sounds familiar to you, you haven’t been reading the same comic books as I (or, obviously, the author).
What about the “plot”, then?
This involves mass-murder through poisoned make-up (anyone remember the 1989 Batman movie?) and disappearing homeless people brainwashed into becoming an army (as in the 1994 Batman/Spawn crossover, although in the latter case, the homeless were cybernetically joined to mechas) of a mysterious, physically imposing criminal mastermind (“the Cobra”, who somehow reminds me of Bane, but that’s probably just my imagination).
If you are into nitpicking, there are many apparent inconsistencies to choose from: regarding Tavelli Cosmetics’ offices on Montgomery Street, “Leena pushed the button for the fifteenth floor—the building’s top floor” (Ch 18), yet in the following chapter, “The Wraith scaled carefully down the glass and steel wall, lowering himself with a remote controlled line, feeding from a small engine atop the building’s roof. Not needing to lower himself very far, The Wraith stopped the mechanism at the fifteenth floor […]”. This either (a) implies that the 15th floor is no longer the top one, or (b) is an example of the author’s poor writing style (considering that his characters do things like “retreat[ing] back from the wreckage”, this is a distinct possibility).
The author does have problems with floors, actually: forget that the world’s largest building (currently, this is the Burj Khalifa) has “only” 163 floors. The Latham Industries building has 300, which is a nice round number with which to impress the masses. But when its roof and top floors are blown up, the Wraith jumps to the roof of the nearest building. Now, unless there are numerous buildings with 290+ floors in the city, that is one magnificent jump. And if there are that many tall buildings in a single area of the city (with the Latham building being the tallest, as explicitly stated), imagine how wide the streets must be, to deal with the traffic such buildings would require; the jump would still be an impressive one. But as I said, this is mere nitpicking, of course.
The same kind of painstaking attention to detail is given to punctuation, and most particularly to hyphenation, making some of the sentences rather hard to understand at first (on top of which, there are missing words here and there, which probably reflect the editor’s lack of concentration when going through the final draft: who could blame him for falling asleep while reading this “rollicking good adventure yarn”?)
In short, I have no idea what the actual comic book is like, but I do know that this “novelisation” is a horrendous attempt to reproduce the naive style of classic pulp fiction. Contrary to the author’s stated opinion (“It is what it is, a short novel in the vein of those old classic pulp magazines—easy to read, quick to digest, enjoyable to finish.”), this novel is merely a waste of a day’s reading.