Saturday, December 17, 2011

GN Review -- Batman: Hush / Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee and Scott Williams

This story is widely considered one of the more recent masterpieces in the Batman mythos. I remember the first time I read this story, I simply could not put it down. It has everything: a wide-ranging story, supporting parts by virtually every character in Batman's life, and stunning artwork.

Starting with a battle against a strangely mutated Killer Croc, Batman discovers he and the many people in his life are being manipulated from the shadows by someone who seems to have an awful lot of insight into his personal life. He is soon led on a months-long journey to gradually discover who has been toying with him, his allies, his enemies... even a childhood friend of his. When all is said and done, Batman is left with another new, insidiously dangerous, addition to his rogues gallery, a villain known by the moniker of "Hush."

Jeph Loeb, whose Batman: The Long Halloween I've also read, is again in top form, scripting a gripping narrative as Batman finds himself questioning who could possibly know so much about him. Loeb uses mini-arcs within the larger story to briefly feature various friends and foes of Batman's, and then moves on to others as the plot dictates. It's a familiar device from him, as he used it in The Long Halloween, and he proves as adept with it in this volume as he was before.

The many characters featured in the story produce some interesting conflicts and more than a few noteworthy moments, such as the Joker insisting on his innocence after Batman finds him standing over the body of a man, just shot, gun in his hand. Batman ends up having to fight Superman, who is being controlled by Poison Ivy, which tests the limits of his mettle and resourcefulness... and shows just how awesome Batman is at taking down a heavy hitter when he has to. His long-standing on-again, off-again relationship with Catwoman blossoms into a full romance during this story, leading to him unmask and let Selina into his life, making for interesting new dynamics as she interacts with the others who know Bruce's secrets.

The artwork in Hush is, of course, as beautifully rendered as you could expect by Jim Lee's pencil work. I know there are some who have issues with his work, but for me, Lee draws superheroes and supervillains perfectly: they're iconic, they're well detailed, and they're beautifully done. As someone who's followed his artwork in comics since I was a teen, I can't help but feel both nostalgic and overwhelmed with awesome when viewing his work. Batman and Superman look larger than life in his renditions, and Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Huntress are beautiful, deadly, and fun to look at. I don't have any drawing skills, nor do I plan to ever try, but if I did, Jim Lee is the comics artist I'd want to draw like.

If you haven't read this story yet and consider yourself a Bat-fan, then get your hands on it and start reading. If you're like me, you'll finish it in one sitting. Hush proves itself to be a fun story that is both gripping and a good look into the life that the Dark Knight and his cohorts lead. Anyone who likes superhero stories should read this. Anyone who likes a good mystery with plenty of twists and turns should read it. Anyone who likes a good graphic novel should read it. Very highly recommended.

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