Had I read the entire Hush storyline in one trade, rather than broken out into two as it was here, perhaps I would have been just a smidge kinder to the story. After the first half, I had no idea where the story was going, and there was more than one moment when I found Batman quite obnoxious.
That being said, having finished the storyline, I’ve warmed to it…at least a little.
Hush Vol. 2 continues Batman’s search for the mastermind who’s been taking over his rogues’s minds and making his life more difficult than usual. The storyline progresses at a slightly faster pace in this latter half of Jeph Loeb’s story, with Batman making the decision to share his secret identity with Catwoman.
This action alone made the comic worth-while. Now that Catwoman knows Batman’s true identity, I doubt the relationship between them will ever be the same. Bruce has taken Selina into his confidence in a way he rarely does with people, especially not those he may be romantically involved with. This is a pretty big step for Batman, and as the couple embrace, I can only wonder what will happen now that the anonymity has been lifted.
While reading this comic I realized why the story felt at least somewhat familiar: it’s because it is strikingly similar to Loeb’s previous Batman endeavor, The Long Halloween. The stories have numerous parallels:
-Each issue features a different villain in the spotlight, highlighting that particular rogue’s power and emphasizing whatever threat they pose to Batman. Harley Quinn, Joker, Clayface, The Riddler, Two-Face: each has their own moment, with virtually no-one left out.
-There is a central mystery that permeates the story so that, as Batman faces off against his foes, he is also trying to solve a larger puzzle.
-When the criminal mastermind is revealed, it turns out to be someone new who had little to no prior connection to Batman’s standard rogues gallery.
That being said, Hush certainly has its own unique twists and turns. None was more surprising than when Batman is confronted by a man in a graveyard, and his blood runs cold as he realizes who it is.
Batman is shocked to see Jason Todd returned from the dead. As he fights his one-time partner, Bruce combs his mind for an explanation. He settles on the fact that Jason must have been placed in the Lazarus Pit to bring him back to life, but then he wonders why?
Ultimately Batman figures out that although it’s a convincing ruse, this is not Jason Todd, and is instead Clayface in disguise. The emotions of this scene were pretty heart-wrenching, especially considering that it could have been real. Although a part of me was angry that this whole portion of the story was a fake-out to garner shock from the reader, I still felt bad for the pain it caused Batman, so ultimately it was a successful scene.
As Batman continues to unravel this mystery, his childhood friend Dr. Thomas Elliott is shot and killed (presumably by the Joker, who maintains his innocence.) This death rattles Bruce deeply, and makes him even more determined to discover who is responsible for this rash of crime.
Eventually, Batman discovers the culprit’s identity, but even he has difficulty believing it.
Doctor Thomas Elliott himself is the guilty party, having adopted the villainous name of “Hush.” He is angry at Bruce’s father for not letting both of his parents die in a car crash when he was a child, and decides to torture Bruce/Batman as a result.
I liked the basic plot. It was interesting to consider a childhood friend of Bruce’s being the mastermind behind these attacks, but his overall motivation felt pretty thin. “How dare your father save my mother’s life and force me to wait years to inherit the family fortune!” It just felt a bit childish and trite.
Gordon shoots Elliott, who in turn falls into the river. Of course, his body isn’t recovered, so I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Hush. At least now we know his identity.
Overall, not the best story. I know this has become a fan favorite, and I can appreciate it in some respects. It’s actually a great Batman primer, neatly explaining the backstory of virtually every character as well as introducing most of the major rogues. If someone was looking to dive into the Batman lore, this would actually be a great place to start. It’s readable and there’s plenty of rich backstory that readers wouldn’t be overwhelmed or confused by what’s going on. In that regard it’s a well-done introduction to various Batman characters.
As an overall story though, it simply doesn’t have the magic that Loeb’s previous Batman stories do. Batman comes across as a bit childish, and his inner musings don’t feel as compelling as others I’ve read. I liked the mystery and the appearances of numerous villains, but overall there was just something missing to keep this story from being catapulted to “amazing” status. If anything, it’s only a necessary read because Hush will surely show up down the road in other storylines, and it’s important to understand his backstory.
Ultimately Hush isn’t a bad story, it simply lacks that certain element that made The Long Halloween so imminently readable.