Hi kids. Matthew here. You might have noticed a different name at the top of Comics Rewind this week. Well, shocking as it may seem, I am far from the only comics enthusiast here at NerdBastards, and this week our own Jason Tabrys emailed and asked if he could write about a comic he’d developed a strong opinion about. Since I’m forever digging my way out of a mountain of back issues, I figured I’d pass the torch to him this week. I’ll be back next week with more of my own thoughts. For now, enjoy Jason’s take on Batman: Hush.
Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams’ Hush series is often described as a great and contemporary masterpiece. After reading the collected works (Batman #608-619) I have a hard time agreeing with those exact words, but I do think that the story is damn fine with masterful art (Lee is the finest active Bat-penciler around) and that it should perhaps stand as an unrivaled entry point for new readers who need to spy both the Bat Man’s origin, his angst, and his ultimate mission.
Why does Hush fall shy of greatness in my view? Essentially, it tries to say too much and tries to fit in too many stories, leaving us off balanced and ultimately not as affected by the conclusion because we’ve already been lead to believe that the true mastermind has been unveiled numerous times.
In the beginning of the story we see Killer Croc, almost sympathetic and drawn like a blur of tough skin and sharp teeth. Poison Ivy is seductive and sinewy as she pulls his strings — a puppet-master who is also a puppet herself. We’re “introduced” to Catwoman as a shadow, crawling in the background with a treat in hand. Soon we learn that she is under Poison Ivy’s spell and soon we see that Batman is under hers.
The entire run pays respect to the characters noir origins with constant double-crosses, and an uneasy relationship with a strong willed and equally suspicious “dame” who may or may not be in on the con. As I said up top, we’re thrown off balance, but so is Batman as he sees the open and flourishing relationship between Clark Kent and Lois Lane with envy in his eyes. Can he let Catwoman in, can Bruce Wayne pull back the cowl and share his life?
That question, along with Batman/Bruce Wayne’s intimacy and trust issues, his guilt for the times that those closest to him have been hurt, and his instincts which seem to be betraying him due to the head spinning games that are encroaching on his world stand at the heart of Hush.
Major Spoilers Ahead!
Speaking of those games, we get a glimpse of nearly every primary Bat-character: from Harold Allnut to Jason Todd, the other two “Robins”, the Joker, Harvey Dent, Oracle, Huntress, Clayface, Jim Gordon and others — all written wonderfully, all standing out as unique characters in this world who either tax or enhance Bruce Wayne and Batman’s life. We are also introduced to Doctor Thomas Elliot early on, an old friend of Bruce Wayne’s whose childhood trauma paralleled his own and who, as an adult, seems to stand as tall as the man Bruce Wayne could have been — a rich, successful surgeon, with a heart of gold — just like Thomas Wayne.
At the end of the game, when all the music stops playing we know how different ”Tommy” is, a bizzaro version of the boy who grew up grieving for his parents and vowing to apply justice to an unjust world. And though there is one last twist at the end that reveals the identify of the mastermind behind all of this, I am vastly more interested in the metaphorical “New Batman” that is left standing after all is said and done.
After a war that sees ally’s and enemies fall, a relationship bloom where the earth had been previously salted, the strength of his friends, and the realization of his worst fear, Batman’s world is changed, but he is not and as we step away from the book we see a more damaged Bruce Wayne who is even more suspicious and un-trusting. In essence, while Batman has won the war, Bruce Wayne has not.