Comics: Batman: Hush

If you read my (overly long, sorry) post a few days ago, you know that I love Hush, mostly because it seems to encompass almost everything that “should” be in a Batman story. It’s also well-paced and drawn, and the twists in the tale are unexpected and exciting without feeling like they came straight from the writer’s ass.

Let’s start with the villains. Hush involves every major villain in Batman’s “Rogues’ Gallery” except the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, and Bane (there’s probably one or two more big ones that are left out). Part of what’s great is that they’re not all in the story just for the sake of appearing; there is  a grand scheme, and all of them have some part in it that makes the whole thing more interesting. Many people think that Batman’s villains are more interesting than the hero, and while I disagree, it’s great to see a bunch of interesting characters playing off each other.

Of course, with a big group of villains comes a big group of heroes. Practically the entire Bat-family gets into the action at some point. Each character has their moment to shine, without taking the spotlight of the whole story away from Batman. Of particular importance are the Robins–or, rather, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, and Tim Drake, the three people who had assumed the identity up to that point. In Hush, Dick is Nightwing, the slightly-nicer Batman-equivalent hero for a neighboring city; Tim Drake is Robin; and Jason Todd is dead at the hands of the Joker. The differences between their personalities, along with the weight of Jason’s death, are a common point of discussion in the book. A lot of people (perhaps most notably Christopher Nolan, the director of the Dark Knight Saga) don’t like the idea of Batman having a sidekick/helper person, but all of the Robins have their own personality and are important to the story in a way besides getting kidnapped (which is actually referenced by Harley Quinn). Oracle and Huntress almost make appearances, with Oracle near-ubiquitous as Batman’s information source. Short but important appearances from Jim Gordon and Superman (and even Krypto the Super-Dog…amazingly, not as silly as it sounds) round out the supporting cast of heroes.

But the real focus of the story is on Batman and Catwoman, who begin a relationship at the start of the book. It’s complicated not by Catwoman’s criminal career (which she has stopped), but by their mutual fear that their relationship will somehow cause problems for them (mostly, for Batman). It’s a fun and interesting partnership that’s very entertaining to see unfold. I liked that she often points out that, despite his his view of himself as alone, he seems to have a lot of “strings” and she doesn’t want to be “the one that trips [him] up.” It helps underline how difficult the job that Batman has set out for himself is; he has too much on his plate to deal with by himself, but he has to be prepared to distrust and fight almost anyone at a moment’s notice. I got the impression that the only people he really trusts are Dick, Jim and Barbara Gordon, Alfred, Superman, and Tim Drake, and he has plans to disable every one of them if necessary.

Anyone who has played Batman: Arkham Asylum or seen art from Arkham City will be familiar with the aesthetic of Hush. It’s fairly realistically drawn, with occasional deviations from reality that emphasize personal characteristics or attempt to make characters more attractive. Most of the women, in particular, are unrealistically hourglass-shaped, but it’s nowhere near as egregious as it could be, and I never really found it detracting from the storytelling. The style goes between classic, outlined comic-book style and softer, minimalist watercolor-ish panels for flashbacks, and it works really well. The composition (the “cinematography,” if you will) is fantastic, with a lot of dramatic full or half-page panels that lend a sense of epicness to already dramatic moments and reveals.

I can’t talk much about the plot of Hush without giving away spoilers, since the entire storyline is a whodunit on a very impressive scale. Essentially, Batman’s enemies start acting uncharacteristically; Killer Croc pulls off a kidnapping, Catwoman reverts back to burgalry, and someone cuts a batline that leads to Batman almost being killed. He has to find out who is masterminding the plot to destroy him and who is in on the conspiracy…before it’s too late (dramatic music cue). There’s one twist that’s a little weakly explained (I would say the villain pulls a bit of a Batman Gambit at one point that stretches suspension of disbelief), but everything else is pretty solid. The character relationships that form the heart of the story are really well explored, and every section has something new and exciting to offer.

Bottom line: If you’re at all interested in Batman, don’t miss this storyline. It’s classic Batman at his best.

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