BATMAN: HUSH is a thrilling mystery of action, intrigue, and deception penned by Jeph Loeb (BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN) and illustrated by comics superstar Jim Lee (ALL STAR BATMAN & ROBIN, THE BOY WONDER) in which Batman sets out to discover the identity of a mysterious mastermind using the Joker, Riddler, Ra’s al Ghul and the Dark Knight’s other enemies – and allies – as pawns in a plan to wreak havoc.
Hush is one of the landmark stories of recent Batman history. Since its original run in 2004, Hush has been hailed as a classic. Not just because of Jeph Loeb’s intricate story but also and sometimes more so, because of Jim Lee’s phenomenal artwork. Lee got his first big break working on Hush and has been acclaimed as an artistic genius ever since. And rightly so; Lee’s drawings are things of beauty which we’ll go into more detail with later on in the review.
To begin with though, let’s look at Loeb’s story. And what a story it is. Hush is a sprawling epic that takes Batman from Gotham to Metropolis and back again. The use of the word sprawling is accurate, not just in relation to the nature of the story but also in regards to its scope. Hush shows us every dark nook and cranny of Batman’s world and casts an illuminating light onto it. Loeb gives us a real sense of Gotham as a troubled city, an ill city. This strongly harks back to Batman’s father Doctor Thomas Wayne a man, who through his medical knowledge and charity work attempted to cure Gotham. Bruce Wayne as Batman attempts to emulate his father by doing the same thing; albeit with different methods. Loeb neatly demonstrates throughout the book how Batman’s quest to cure Gotham is also a quest to cure himself, how ridding Gotham of its cast of villains he could finally begin to trust others and create a life of his own outside the cowl.
The theme of illness, of a corruption of the soul links into the rest of the story as well. This illness effects Bruce’s old friend Doctor Thomas Elliot who through his own need of vengeance against Bruce and envy of him dons the mantle of Hush to toy with Wayne and to attempt to destroy him. Elliot’s role as a Doctor, a healer of men is almost parodied by his costume as Hush which consists of a series of bandages wrapped around his head creating the appearance of a mummy. He’s a sick man attempting to cure himself by eliminating the thing he thinks is responsible for his illness: Batman.
This theme of illness runs through straight to the architect of the plan to bring Batman down: The Riddler. At the centre of the web is The Riddler, a character who has been previously viewed as gimmicky and ridiculous. Loeb’s reinvention of him is brilliantly done. Having discovered that he has cancer, The Riddler discovers in his own words “a type of clarity” that helps him discover Batman’s identity and be able to set the trap for him. Loeb cleverly shows the distinction between The Riddler and Batman. While Batman is attempting to cut his own illness out, The Riddler revels in it because his own narcissism is what makes him who he is.
Jim Lee’s artwork, as described above is stunning in this book. Lee has a real touch for making realistic yet cartoonish looking figures and his mixture of styles creates a wonderful series of images. Lee’s depictions of both Batman and Superman are particularly well done, with Lee creating incredibly iconic images of both. Similarly Lee’s design of Hush creates a strange, ethereal, mesmeric new villain that stands out as distinctive and strange.
Overall, Hush is one of the best Batman stories of recent years. It combines a thrilling plot with detailed and enjoyable artwork to great effect. Highly recommended.