Batman: The Complete Hush
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Pencils: Jim Lee
Inks: Scott Williams
FC, 320 pgs
$24.99 US / Higher in Canada
In 2003, comic book veterans Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee took Batman to the top of the sales charts with “Hush”, a 12-issue storyline pitting the Dark Knight against an unseen villain with a score to settle, amidst a backdrop of almost every major supporting character in the series’ continuity. Though the series was a financial success, fan reaction was polarized by the time the series ended. Now that the entire series has been collected in paperback trade format, the question remains – does “Hush” deliver?
First things first–- Jeph Loeb delivers a well-written Batman. He strips the character down to the essentials, writing him as a solemn, efficient and brutal vigilante. This is a Batman who glides through the shadows, an intimidating and unstoppable hero who has studied his enemy and will let nothing stand in his way. The story is told not through painfully forced word balloons, but through concise narratives detailing the detective’s intricate thought processes. He is a man of few words, one who shoots first and asks questions later, and under Loeb’s direction, Batman is a force to be reckoned with.
Jim Lee’s pencils were the selling point for this event, and the man’s pretty pictures rarely disappoint. Proving once again that he’s one of the industry’s best, Lee brings his trademark level of detail to every inch of the page. His character renditions are beautiful, as are his meticulous surroundings, from a gritty Gotham to a polished Metropolis. And for a series so heavy on action, a better artist would be hard to come by.
As for the story, it’s mainly style over substance. This book reads fast and looks good. The story’s okay, but hardly groundbreaking–- like a true summer blockbuster, the action scenes and ensemble cast are far more entertaining. In these five chapters alone, we’ve got Killer Croc, Catwoman, Huntress, Superman and Poison Ivy, each given varying degrees of creative interpretation by both writer and artist. Punches are thrown, the mystery deepens, and the whole thing ends with a kick-ass brawl with the Man of Steel. Facing an unbeatable enemy, Batman proves beyond all doubt that he is truly a contender in the world of superheroes.
It’s hard to go into the negatives without hinting at what’s to come, so if you’re disinclined toward minor spoilers, avert your eyes. Knowing ahead of time how this story ends, ‘events’ like “Hush” point out the glaring continuity errors that arise when a title continually changes creative teams. Most of the intriguing subplots brought up in this run are virtually dropped after the series finale, lessening the impact of the events told within. Even more frustrating, the enigmatic villain is painfully obvious from the second issue–- Loeb relies a bit too heavily on the reader’s tendency to dismiss the most apparent solution. This detracts from the story’s eventual climax. A second reading of these initial issues makes the book’s flaws more evident. Still, none of that is a concern in this graphic novel, and ultimately this is an entertaining– and visually stunning– superhero yarn. There are plenty of surprises in The Complete Hush, even if the whole is slightly less than the sum of its parts. (David Brennan)