Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Jim Lee
Being a huge Batman fan I decided to start reviewing my collection in trade form (as it'd take forever to do individual reviews) starting with this volume. I also hope to eventually getting round to reviewing the entire collection till at least the start of the New 52.
Batman starts to notice that his rouge gallery of villains start to act different than their usual M.O. After noticing this with Killer Croc, and Poison Ivy Batman deduces that he's got either a new villain against him, or an old villain with new tricks. As the story takes him through other villains including, Harley Quinn, Joker, and others he can't quite grasp at who this new villain is. So the question is, who is Hush?
WARNING: THERE MAY BE SOME MINOR SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!
(The books been out for a long time, and it'd be hard to give a proper review without talking about subjects that have spoilers. The biggest spoiler will be Hush's identity, but besides that the spoilers aren't that huge)
As you'd have gathered from my introduction I think that this is a mindblowingly brilliant book, and have enjoyed reading it several times. A lot of people give Jeph Loeb a hard time saying that he's a bad writer, but he's not. Okay he's done a few bad stories in the past, with some of them being horrifically bad, but you can't expect everything a writer writes to be perfect, and you've got to remember the good stuff he wrote. Besides this brilliant story Loeb has also done other great stories including, Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman: Dark Victory, Superman for All Seasons, Wolverine: Evolution, and Ultimatum just to name a few, but lots of people only seem to remember the bad stories he produces. In this story Loeb has managed to give a huge elaborate mystery, that's gripping, entertaining, interesting, and fun. Mysteries that are left open for twelve issues can sometimes become slow, and boring, but Loeb manages to avoid that by keeping the story interesting, whilst throwing in some action to keep the reader both intrigued, and entertained. Another thing I liked about Loeb's writing was how he was able to utilize all these great Batman characters. Not many stories manage to involve as many characters both heroes, and villains and pull it off, but this does.
Now Jim Lee, where do I start when talking about him. As some of you that have read my Justice League reviews may know is that Jim Lee is my favourite artist, and I just think the man's a genius. To be honest this was the first time that I'd seen Lee's artwork, but since I have managed to see his art in lots of different series' from this, to Justice League, to X-Men, and even recently I've bought Superman: For Tomorrow due to looking forward to his upcoming Superman title that he's working on with writer Scott Snyder. I just love that nothing lacks detail. To say that Lee's art was full of detail would be an understatement, as there isn't any page or panel that isn't oozing with detail. Over the years I've learned that Lee can draw any character, and make them look amazing, but for me I have always considered his drawings of Batman as his best. Maybe it's due to my love for the character, or that this story was where I saw his artwork first, but I've always especially liked Lee's art on Batman even more than his art on other characters, even when Lee was working on the Justice League. Anyway Lee did a brilliant job on all the characters, as he made them look perfect, with them both being highly recognizable due to him keeping their characteristics, whilst adding his own style. I also think that the inks from long time Lee inker Scott Williams, and colours from Alex Sinclair helped make Lee's already brilliant artwork even better than it already is. I'll finish of talking about the art by saying that my favourite artwork throughout the story was actually the flashback sequences. The way Lee drew it, along with Williams' inking, and Sinclair's colours made it look beautiful, and detached it from the other artwork, making it obvious that it was a flashback.
Now I'll talk about the start of the book. The first issue is quite normal with Batman chasing Killer Croc, who is acting strange. Before the end of the issue whilst chasing Catwoman, Batman's batrope is cut and Batman falls hard, fracturing his skull. After being rescued by Huntress (Bertinelli) he is saved by childhood friend turned famous surgeon Thomas Elliot Bruce is healthy again. I've decided to talk about this first as it's how the character Tommy Elliot is introduced. Although Batman has been around for a long time, there aren't many stories that talk about his childhood, besides the ones that involve the death of his parents. I found it interesting that after years of not seeing each other that a manipulated accident could bring these childhood friends together. What I liked most however was how big a role Tommy would become, and how his relationship with Bruce, and their childhood would have a large affect on the story.
Lets talk about the characters in this story. As I said earlier in my review Loeb has included nearly every known Batman villain, and ally in this story, and that was one of the best things about the story. Although the mystery and suspense was the overall best thing about the story, it was all the different characters popping up from time to time that keep the story fresh, and exciting. As I also said having lots of characters in one story doesn't always mean that it's bound to be better, actually the opposite. With many different characters, all having their own fan base you have to portray them in a way that both their die hard fans, and newer fans can enjoy, whilst also working to the overall stories best advantage. I think that Loeb did this, as whether it was Batman against Killer Croc, or Batman interacting with Nightwing (Dick Grayson), or even the romance between Batman and Catwoman, it was all done perfectly, and helped the story out in more ways that you'd expect.
|Batman and Catwoman Kiss|
That last sentence moves me on nicely to my next topic, the romance between Batman and Catwoman. It's not a secret that there have been sexual tension between these characters in the past, and they have had ton's of on, and off relationships, but in my opinion this was the best relationship they had in a story. Batman's relationship with Catwoman in this story gave him some hope into his life. With most of his other relationships he can't keep up appearances as he has to go of and fight crime, whereas with Catwoman he can always bring her along with him. Although this isn't the first time that Batman has had a fellow superhero as a romantic companion it was in my opinion the most interesting, and I feel that Catwoman is the character that best suits the role as Batman's girlfriend cause she's both different, and similar to him, whilst being a strong, confident woman, not needing Batman to look out for her, or tip-toe around her. Anyway I really enjoyed seeing this in this story, and between Loeb's writing, and Lee's artwork I felt that these sequences were magical.
|Batman vs. Superman|
Now I'll talk about the best fight in the story, which was Batman vs. Superman. Although Batman and Superman have fought each other before this was probably the most interesting one. Superman has been put under Ivy's spell, and like any other man he has to submit to her whim. Batman isn't beaten easily as he came prepared with the Kryptonite ring that Superman gave him in Action Comics #654 (or at least I believe this is when he gave him it). Anyway, the fight was brilliant, and very exciting. I liked that it showed both characters advantages, whilst also showing that there was no reasoning with Superman. Although Loeb wrote the dialogue, and Batman's thoughts brilliantly during this sequence, it is Lee that makes the sequence phenomenal. To be fair due to comics being a visual medium, comics have to be visually stunning, and more so in huge action sequences. Basically if you have a good artist it's the art that will always shine in big action sequences no matter how good the writing is. There was also other fights that were very good in this story, but this was the best.
This book also left a hint for a following story, Under the Hood. During the later half of the story it was revealed that Jason Todd was back from the dead using a Lazarus Pit, and was in fact Hush. It was revealed that this person was neither Jason or Hush, but Clayface (Karlo) disguised as Jason. Whether it was already decide to bring Jason back from the dead at this point or not, DC landed up bringing the character back in the Under the Hood storyline as the new Red Hood, and he was brought back the same way as he supposedly returned in this story.
Now I'll finish my review by discussing who is Hush? This is the big mystery throughout the story, and although the identity is revealed several times the actual identity isn't revealed until the end. Any Batman fan will know the identity of Hush whether they've read this book or not, but just for the reviews sake I'll still talk about it (as the mystery's what the story's based around). I have to say on my first read through of this story I wasn't entirely sure who Hush was. I had hunches throughout, and although my first guess was eventually right Loeb did a brilliant job of making me question myself, which in turn kept the mystery. It was issue 613 during the opera sequence when I realized that Tommy was Hush. The way he got angry made me think that not everything is right with this man, which lead me to think, is Tommy Hush? Loeb however made me question this when he killed the character off, but he later brought him back revealing that the dead body was Clayface, in a similar role as he was when impersonating Jason. After another couple of read through's I notice some telltale signs from earlier in the story, but overall I have to say that Loeb did a good job of keeping it a mystery. Besides the mystery element of Hush, I think that Loeb created a brilliant villain, and one of the best new villains in the last 10-20 years. I have really enjoyed seeing Hush become a part of the Batverse since then, and hope that he manages to make his way into The New 52 at some point, preferably in the not too distant future.
In the introduction to volume one of this story Loeb says how his dad wanted the picture on his television to be just right during the Adam West Batman series, and that Loeb hoped that readers would see this story as just right. Well I have to say to Mr. Loeb that from this fans point of view that his wish has been granted then some, as this story isn't just right, it's phenomenal.
Defiantly one of the best Batman stories of all time. This story didn't just introduce me to comics, it made me fall in love with them, and if ever Leob and Lee were to reunite to work on another Batman story I'm sure it'd be fantastic (although I don't see that happening). I would highly recommend this story to anyone, as it's beyond brilliant, and I'd be very surprised if you were disappointed by it.
The next book I'll be reviewing from this series will be Batman: Broken City.