Batman: Hush Returns

Okay, I’m just going to come right out and say it: I have some serious issues with this trade.

I wasn’t overly impressed with the first Hush storyline (neither Vol. 1 nor Vol. 2), so I wasn’t eagerly anticipating this trade.  Tommy Elliott didn’t feel like an incredibly believably villain, and his entire motive for wanting Batman dead (Bruce’s father saved his own mother’s life, delaying Tommy’s inheritance of the family fortune) was just whiny and contrived.  Nothing held my interest.

Apparently A.J. Lieberman felt differently, as he writes this comic as though Hush is actually a force to be reckoned with.  The entire city of Gotham shudders at the thought of his return, with all of the city’s most revered villains worried to face off against him.  Even Batman himself is shown quaking in his boots.

I have to ask…why???  Hush doesn’t have any sort of meta-human powers, nor does he have a particularly domineering personality.  Batman, as well as many of his Rogues, don’t have any “super” powers; still, their strong presences are enough to carry numerous comics.  Hush just doesn’t fit this mold. He’s a whiny little brat who wants to kill Batman…just because. He doesn’t have a strong voice, nor does he really seem like he’d be a physical match for Batman.  Maybe that’s why the two of them never even face off in a sparring match.

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And the bandages…what is going on with the bandages?  There’s a small hint that Hush may be in search of a new costume, but for now he’s running around with oddly places bandage tape plastered strategically all over his body (a look that, let’s be honest, would be more expected for a woman in one of these comics).  I suppose it’s supposed to make him look roughed up and badass (in case the flowing trench-coat doesn’t convey that image enough) but it just looks silly.

Honestly, why is everyone so terrified of him? Just because he got his hands on some nerve toxin and mind-controlled a bunch of people during his first appearance?  Okay fine, maybe that’s a fair assumption, but it was just a bit too overdone with literally every single character being concerned over Hush’s appearance.

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(side note: “Only a fool wouldn’t be scared at facing Hush.”…. this sentence makes me cringe.  Are there words missing? Edit, people!)

Then there’s the entire side-story featuring Joker.  Where do I even begin?

First, I’m never really a fan of Joker origin stories. I’m especially unhappy that the one featured here is a literal rehashing of a previously told story, because it’s lending credibility to this particular origin over others.

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I like my Joker origins murky and unclear, thank you very much.

As if that wasn’t enough, it’s as though the Joker finally found the right combination of meds in this comic. He is so completely un-Jokerish that he might as well be a different character.  Not once do we see even a hint at his normal psychotic personality; instead, he spends the whole story hunting down the man who murdered his wife.

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The appearance of Hush seems to rattle him, and he winds up repeating himself over and over, exclaiming, “This is my city!”  Was Lieberman attempting to give credibility to Hush’s strength by showing that he can overpower even the Joker?  This would have been far more effective if Joker had actually seemed like himself. As it stands, it’s no surprise Hush got the best of him; all of the Joker’s trademark mania is gone. He could have been replaced with any of Gotham’s numerous thugs and the story wouldn’t be any different.

That is not indicative of a good Joker story.  Joker is so wholly unique that he should be a distinct voice in each and every comic he appears in.  Instead, Joker is completely wasted in these pages, appearing like a love-lorn, vindictive fool who couldn’t outwit anyone.

Joker aside, the Hush portion of the story isn’t all that memorable. He tracks down Prometheus in Star City, where Batman and Green Arrow have an utterly forgettable encounter (complete with brief and uneventful scuffle, because apparently when two heroes meet up, they have to fight each other).  The book ends with Hush escaping, with no hint as to what his bigger plans are. He was searching for Riddler this entire trade, and never found him.  Other than “killing Batman”, I’m not really sure what his long-term goals are at this point, nor do I particularly care.  Hush is simply not a compelling character at this point, and I don’t really view him as a viable threat to Batman (or anyone else, for that matter).

If anything, this book seemed to be nothing more than a setup for a future storyline.If I’m lucky, future issues will be handled a bit more deftly than those featured here.  I don’t think I can handle much more of the whiny, boring Joker squaring off against some random dude wrapped in bandages.

-Jess

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