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I like my detective fiction medium-raw, with a side of kickass. BATMAN: THE ULTIMATE EVIL by Andrew Vachss does not disappoint. But, and I am still uncertain how I feel about this, this is not your typical Dark Knight tale. Here, Batman has a vendetta to enact, and the building moments—before this vendetta is carried out—shows a Batman that might not normally act this way. I have no problem with authors revamping a heroic character to meet the needs of a book, but I do have problems if they blatantly change the history of a character to satisfy the story. I’ll get to that in a bit…I hate giving plot overviews within reviews, but you’ll need to know something about the book if you want to understand my rant. The story goes like this: Batman uncovers a hideous child pornography ring through the help of a Gotham City child welfare officer. He, as Bruce Wayne, goes along with the officer to see all the horrible environs that children of Gotham City have to live in. A fire begins to burn deep inside his being, and in some unlocked portion of his brain, Wayne/Batman begin to subconsciously plan the destruction of all people that hurt children. Enter Alfred, the noble butler. He has seen how Wayne has been transformed while tagging along with the welfare officer and decides the truth needs to come out about Martha Wayne, Bruce’s mother. Martha wasn’t just a “housewife;” she was actually a very well respected “investigative sociologist.” And through her work as an investigative sociologist, she uncovered a nefarious network of child pornography that linked some of Gotham City’s finest to a man, William X. Malady, in a fictitious country called Udon Khai. Here, families sell children into slave networks where men (it said nothing about women) come from all across Europe and the United States to seek sex with virgins, this means children under the age of twelve. This network is tipped off that Martha Wayne has some pretty heavy dirt on the ring, so they decide to have her waxed. Wayne finally understands that the death of his parents wasn’t the sole contributing factor for the creation of Batman; it was merely the final one to make the incarnation of the Dark Knight come to life. Through this realization, the Batman devises a plan to go to Udon Khai and destroy this network and avenge the death of his mother. (I’ll leave the rest of the story for those who want to read this book.)Now what I hate about the creative license of writer’s for already existing histories of characters: We all know who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents…that’s right, the original Smiley himself, the Joker (in Tim Burtons version which I use as my standard because that is what I know and this is my review...I have been told and appreciate that Joe Chill actually killed Bruces parents which only helps my argument further. Thanks, Kemper.) Now, I’ve never read the comics, but I think I am correct in my assumption that if this ring of sexual predators organized the hit on Martha Wayne, then, by default, two things need to be addressed: 1) how does the Joker and/or Joe Chill come into play in the overarching Batman history, and 2) how exactly did Martha Wayne finagle her way into a corrupt police/organized crime ring without ever having her husband know about it? I might be reading into this too much, but I find the lack of clarity surrounding these issues troublesome. Even without these questions answered, there needs to be further clarification. Let’s start with the author. Vachss is a lawyer who specializes in child rights, so I understand where he is coming from regarding the writing of this book. (He has also written some pretty stellar noir books.) But, to me, this story tears the fabric of believability. Would the Batman leave Gotham City and seek out villains for his own personal vendetta? Might this be a bit out of character? I’m not a Batman purist, so I can honestly say I have no idea what I’m talking about. Also, the story has many moments where the Batman goes on longwinded tirades about the rights of children, and how these rights need to be upheld. I get it. This is important stuff. But would the Batman actually lecture—no, pontificate—about this for pages and pages. I always found the Batman to be a man of few words, unless the Batman is Adam West, but that is a completely different rant. And finally, there is the issue of homosexuality. Now before the villagers get stakes and pitchforks ready, let me say that my older brother is gay. This bothers me none. He has been in a meaningful relationship, WITH THE SAME PERSON, for almost ten years. Vachss thinks he needs to defend homosexuality from being misconstrued with pedophilia. This defense comes across as nothing more than an incongruity in the storytelling at worse, and a bit of soap-boxing at best. I hope we all know the difference between how couples of the same sex love each other, and the disgusting, perverted, and harmful “love” sexual predators “feel” toward their victims. If this happened only once, I would have overlooked it. But it happens at least four different times. I fail to see how this is important to the story. Okay, I’ve ranted enough and I’m not even sure if what I wrote makes sense. My final thoughts are this: I enjoyed this story even thought there were elements that I found repulsive, grotesque, evil, and filthy. There is a strong message that Vachss does successfully convey: Our children are important, take care of them, and protect them. Let’s all do that. Let’s take care of our children.(There is one last thing: There is a scene that describes how a sexual predator can take a “sexual cruise” on a yacht named the Lollypop…really, the friggin’ Lollypop. That’s twisted on so many levels!)HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (for those that like to read about the Batman universe)

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