Young adult lit star Marie Lu has given us so many memorable heroes and villains, from Legend's heroes June and Day to The Young Elites' anti-hero (or maybe even straight-up villain) Adelina Amouteru to this year's new complicated hacker hero Emika Chen from Warcross. And now Lu is tackling one of the most iconic heroes of all time: Batman.
In Batman: Nightwalker, Lu explores the superhero's origin story in a new way, by telling the story of Bruce Wayne as a teenager. And Bustle has an exclusive excerpt of Chapter Two, a heart-pounding scene that shows a pre-Batman Bruce Wayne getting a little taste of becoming a vigilante hero.
Lu's Batman story is part of the DC Icons series, which pairs YA authors with quintessential comic book heroes and villains to tell the stories of their teenage years. Leigh Bardugo's Wonder Woman: Warbringer kicked off the series in August, and after Batman Nightwalker's March 2018 release, next comes Sarah J. Maas' Catwoman: Soulstealer and Matt de la Pena's Superman.
In Batman: Nightwalker, Bruce Wayne is on the cusp of turning 18, when he will inherit his family's fortune and the keys to Wayne Industries (and, ahem, access to its arsenal of next-level tech). Meanwhile, the elite members of Gotham City is being terrorized by the Nightwalkers, who are turning the wealthy's security systems against them, trapping them helpless in their homes for attack.
After a Nightwalker-related confrontation with police, Bruce must volunteer at the famous Arkham Asylum, where he meets prisoner Madeleine Wallace, a mysterious woman with ties to the criminal group.
We're super excited for this brand-new Batman story, especially with the exceptional Marie Lu at the helm. Get the whole scoop on Penguin Random House's Underlined site and mark your calendar for Jan. 2, 2018.
Read an exclusive excerpt of Chapter Two of Marie Lu's Batman: Nightwalker below!
Neon lights smeared across the evening streets of Gotham City. Few cars were on the road at this hour, and all Bruce could hear was the rush of pavement and wind, the sound of his car tearing down the freeway. That was what drew him to machines. They followed algorithms, not emotion; when Bruce pushed his foot down on the pedal, the car only responded in one way.
Somewhere behind him, he could see the headlights of paparazzi attempting to follow him. Bruce allowed himself a cynical smile and edged the speedometer higher and higher. The world blurred around him.
A harsh beep rang out in the car, followed by an electronic voice. “Speed not recommended for this road,” it said, and at the same time, one corner of the windshield lit up with a recommended speed and a blinking marker telling Bruce to slow down.
“Override,” Bruce replied. The alerts faded. He could feel the car lock itself tighter in position on the road, so that if he seemed to be even slightly shaky, the car would compensate by steadying itself.
At least WayneTech’s features were working as they should, he thought darkly. Lucius would be happy to hear it.
The car’s phone rang, echoing in Bruce’s ears. When he glanced down at the caller ID, he saw that it was Dianne. Bruce let it ring a few times before he finally answered. Dianne’s voice filled the car, along with the din of the party behind her.
“Bruce?” she shouted over the noise. “Where’d you go? I saw you step away with Richard, but then I heard you left, and—”
“I did leave,” Bruce replied.
“What? Are you okay?” That was Harvey’s voice, anxious.
“I’m fine,” Bruce reassured them. “Don’t worry. I just needed to get some air and clear my head.”
There was a pause on the other end before Dianne spoke up again. “Do what you need to do,” she replied.
“And if you need us,” Harvey added, “we’ll head to you.”
Bruce relaxed a little at their words. The three of them had all gotten to the point where they could sense each other’s moods, so that none of them needed to explain a thing. They just knew.
"Thanks.” Then he hung up.
He had no idea where he was driving to, but after awhile he realized he was taking a long route back in the direction of the manor. Bruce exited the freeway onto a local street, passing rows of dilapidated apartment buildings, their walls permanently stained from decades of water and filth. Clothes hung limply on lines strung from one window to another. Steam billowed up from vents. He swerved neatly through traffic, then made a sharp turn at an intersection, where he paused at a stoplight.
Outside his car window, an old man was crawling into his makeshift tent, while at the end of the block another man was stuffing old newspaper into his shoes. A pair of kids played in an alley piled high with trash.
Bruce looked away. He shouldn’t be here. And yet here he was, driving through the slums in a car that probably cost more than what a person living here could earn in a lifetime. Did he have a right to ever feel sad, with everything he had in his life?
These were the streets that his parents had fought all their lives to improve, and they were the same streets where their blood had been shed. Bruce took a deep breath as the light turned green and he revved his engine. Gotham City was broken in many ways, but it wasn’t beyond repair. He would find a way to fix it. It was the mantle he’d been handed.
Soon the streets changed back to unbroken streetlights and un-barred windows. The paparazzi were slowly but surely gaining on him; if he didn’t throw them off now, they would end up parked outside his mansion gates, fabricating tabloid headlines for why he left his party early. Bruce’s eyes darkened at the thought, and he sped up until the car’s warning beep went off again.
It wasn’t until he reached another series of stoplights that he heard the echo of police sirens.
Bruce wondered for an instant if the sirens were for him, the police busting him for speeding. Then he realized that the sound was coming from somewhere up ahead—and not just from a single vehicle, but from what must be dozens.
Curiosity cut through his dark mood. Bruce frowned as he listened to the wails. He had spent enough time following criminal cases on his own that the sound of sirens always made him sit up straighter. For this area of the city, an upscale shopping neighborhood, the sheer intensity of them seemed out of place. Bruce took a detour from the route that would have taken him back toward Wayne Manor, and instead headed in the direction of the sirens.
As he rounded another bend, the wails suddenly turned deafening, and a mass of flashing red and blue lights blinked against the buildings near the end of the street. White barricades and yellow police tape completely blocked the intersection. Even from here, Bruce could see fire engines and black SWAT trucks clustered together, the silhouettes of police running back and forth in front of the headlights.
Inside his car, the electronic voice came on again,followed by a transparent map overlaid against his windshield. “Heavy police activity ahead. Alternate route suggested.”
A sense of dread filled his chest.
Bruce flicked away the map and pulled to an abrupt halt in front of the barricade—right as the unmistakable pop-pop-pop of gunfire rang out in the night air.
He remembered the sound all too well. The memory of his parents’ deaths sent a wave of dizziness through him. Another robbery. A murder. That’s what all this is.
Then he shook his head. No, that can’t be right. There were far too many cops here for a simple robbery.
“Step out of your vehicle, and put your hands in the air!” a police officer shouted through a megaphone, her voice echoing along the block. Bruce’s head jerked toward her. For an instant, he thought her command was directed at him, but then he saw that her back was turned,her attention fixed on the corner of the building bearing the name Bellingham Industries & Co. “We have you surrounded, Nightwalker! This is your final warning!”
Another officer came running over to Bruce’s car. He whirled an arm exaggeratedly for Bruce to turn his car around. His voice harsh with panic, he warned, “Turn back now. It’s not safe!”
Before Bruce could reply, a blinding fireball exploded behind the officer. The street rocked.
Even from inside his car, Bruce felt the heat of the blast. Every window in the building burst simultaneously, a million shards of glass raining down on the pavement below. The police ducked in unison, their arms shielding their heads. Fragments of glass dinged like hail against Bruce’s windshield.
From inside the blockade, a white car veered around the corner at top speed. Bruce saw immediately what the car was aiming for—a slim gap between the police barricades where a SWAT team truck had just pulled through.
The car raced right toward the gap.
“I said, get out of here!” the officer shouted at Bruce. A thin ribbon of blood trickled down the man’s face. “That is an order!"
Bruce heard the scream of the getaway car’s tires against the asphalt. He’d been in his father’s garage a thousand times, helping him tinker with an endless number of engines from the best cars in the world. At WayneTech, Bruce had watched in fascination as tests were conducted on custom engines, conceptual jets, stealth tech, new vehicles of every kind.
And so he knew: whatever was installed under that hood was faster than anything the GCPD could hope to have.
They’ll never catch him.
But I can.
His Aston Martin was probably the only vehicle here that could overtake the criminal’s, the only one powerful enough to chase it down. Bruce’s eyes followed the path the car would likely take, his gaze settling on a sign at the end of the street that pointed toward the freeway.
I can get him.
The white getaway vehicle shot straight through the gap in the barricade, clipping two police cars as it went.
No, not this time. Bruce slammed his gas pedal.
The Aston Martin’s engine let out a deafening roar, and the car sped forward. The officer who’d shouted at him stumbled back. In the rearview mirror, Bruce saw him scramble to his feet and wave theother officers’ cars forward, both his arms held high.
“Hold your fire!” Bruce could hear him yelling. “Civilian in proximity—hold your fire!”
The getaway car made a sharp turn at the first intersection, and Bruce sped behind it a few seconds later. The street zigzagged, then turned in a wide arc as it led toward the freeway—and the Nightwalker took the on-ramp, leaving a trail of exhaust and two black skid marks on the road.
Bruce raced forward in close pursuit; his car mapped the ground instantly, swerving in a perfect curve to follow the ramp onto the freeway. He tapped twice on the windshield right over where the Nightwalker’s white vehicle was.
“Follow him,” Bruce commanded.
It was a feature meant to make it easier for two cars to caravan with each other. Now a green target highlighted over the white car, and the Aston Martin’s voice spoke up: “Car locked on.” A small map appeared on the corner of the windshield, showing exactly where the getaway car was in proximity to Bruce. No matter how much the white car tried to escape now, it wouldn’t be able to shake him.
Bruce narrowed his eyes and urged the car faster. His entire body tingled from the rush of adrenaline. “Override,” he said the instant the car tried to get him to slow down. He snaked between cars from one lane to another. The Aston Martin responded with blinding accuracy, knowing exactly when he could cut into a narrow space and how fast he needed to be.
Already Bruce was catching up to the Nightwalker’s car, and the Nightwalker knew it. The other car started to cut wildly back and forth. The few vehicles still on the freeway swerved out of their way as they wove between lanes.
A spotlight flooded Bruce and the freeway in front of him. He glanced up to see a black chopper flying low and parallel to their chase. Far behind him were the flashing lights of the GCPD cars, but they were a distant sight, getting rapidly smaller.
What the hell am I doing? Bruce thought in a feverish daze. But he didn’t let up on the gas. Instead, he leaned back and floored the pedal. His eyes were fixed on the swerving white car before him.
Just a little more. Bruce was so close now that he could see the driver look back to glare at him. The white car swerved around a truck carrying a load of enormous pipes, forcing the driver into Bruce’s lane. The Aston Martin beeped a warning as it automatically veered to the side. Bruce yanked the steering wheel sharply. For an instant, he thought he would hit the side of the truck—but his car slid into the lane by the barest of margins, a perfect fit.
In this moment, in spite of everything, Bruce felt invincible, even natural, his focus narrowing in on nothing but the sight of his target and the thud of his heart.
Overhead, the voice from the chopper’s megaphone called out to him. “Pull over,” it shouted. “Civilian, stand down. You will be arrested. Stop your vehicle!”
But Bruce had caught up to his target. Almost there. He tightened his grip on his steering wheel, hoping his calculations were correct. If he clipped him in the rear correctly, the Nightwalker car’s speed and friction would probably flip him. It ends here.
Alfred’s going to kill me.
Bruce patted the steering wheel once. His heart twisted for an instant at what he was about to do. “Sorry, sweetheart,” he murmured to the Aston Martin.
Then he sped up. The car tried to stop him this time, and he felt the resistance in the steering wheel against his move. “ALERT! Collision ahead!”
“Override,” Bruce shouted, then rammed his vehicle into the back of the Nightwalker’s car.
The crunch of metal slamming into metal.
Bruce felt a shock wave ripple through his body as his neck whipped sideways and he was hurled in an arc, his seat belt cutting into his chest from the force. The other car’s tires screamed against the pavement—or maybe that was Bruce, he wasn’t sure—and he saw the vehicle flip, momentarily airborne. The world streaked around him. For an instant, he caught a glimpse of the driver’s face—a man, eyes wide, his pale skin dotted with blood.
The white car crashed upside down. Glass exploded out in all directions as the metal frame crushed into a gnarled mass. Even though Bruce knew, as he shook his head groggily, that everything must have taken less than a second, he felt like he could see the metal twisting section by section, the million individual splinters of the windows cutting through the air.
Police swarmed the white car, their rifles pointed directly at the driver inside. He looked conscious, if barely.
“Don’t move, Nightwalker!” an officer yelled. “You’re under arrest!”
Bruce felt another wave of dizziness hit. As one of the officers approached him, shouting angrily now, Bruce heard his car issue a voice call alerting Alfred as well as sending his coordinates to him and the police.
Bruce’s guardian answered on the first ring, voice tense and frantic. “Master Wayne! MasterWayne?”
“Alfred,” Bruce heard himself say. “Could use a pickup.” He couldn’t understand what Alfred said in reply—he wasn’t even sure if he could hear Alfred’s words. All he remembered was slumping in his seat, and the world going dark.