Friday, September 26, 2014

Review # 131: "Batman: Hush"

"Hush" is the dream comic story for any fan who was introduced to the medium in the early 90's through TV cartoons. It's a perfect first book for anyone who enjoyed "Batman: The Animated Series" or "X-Men" back in the day with major creative ties to both.

Jeph Loeb had a notable history with Batman already when he was hired to put together this series in 2002, enjoying monstrous success with the likes of "The Long Halloween" and "Dark Victory" with Tim Sale as artist. However, Loeb's usual partner was not available. Enter Jim Lee, THE star artist of the early 90s who redesigned the look of the X-Men and sold a boatload of comics as a result. Lee's over-the-top pin-up style had been refined slightly at this point. The result is a creative dream team with a book that looks great and has strong pacing.

"Hush" borrows slightly from Steve Englehart's "Strange Apparitions" in that it works in as many Batman adversaries and allies as possible within its 12 issues. Joker? Two-Face? Riddler? Ra's Al Ghul? All here. Nightwing? Robin? Superman? They're here too.

And then there's Catwoman. This series makes history as Bruce and Selina decide to have a relationship. There are instant trust issues.

What the plot boils down to is that there's someone messing with Batman. Trying to catch Selena at the beginning of the story, Batman's rope is cut and he fractures his skull in the fall. Old friend Thomas Elliot - who's being introduced here - is called in from New York to save his life. Now, the identity of new villain Hush is being kept secret, and it seems from the beginning that Elliot is the obvious man behind the taped-up mask. What Loeb does, though, is throw in several curveballs that keep you guessing. Even when Hush's identity is revealed, it doesn't exactly mean he's responsible for everything that happened.

It really is impressive how Loeb weaves all of these characters into a single plot, as they all arrive with a sense of perfect timing. Bruce and Selena go to the opera? Opportune moment for Harley Quinn to crash it. Batman chases Harley into an alley? Well... of course you know who's going to be there with a gun in his hand. Poison Ivy is set up in Metropolis? Guess who she's trapped into serving her. There are well-timed surprises at every turn.

They look great, too. This may be the best Jim Lee art I've ever seen, leaps ahead of his "X-Men" days (which were still great.) He's improved as a story-teller and his attention to detail shines. You arguably will not find better art in a Batman book in the last 30-plus years.

You may not find a better multi-issue storyline in a main Batman comic series either.

Rating: 10/10

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