Batman: Hush
Medium: comic
Year: 2002
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciller: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
Keywords: superhero
Format: 12 issues (Batman #608-619)
Series: << Batman >>, << Joker >>
Website category: Batman
Review date: 19 March 2021
It didn't work for me. I have criticisms of the Loeb-Sale series from Batman's early years, but at least they nail the tone. They're oppressive and unpleasant, with Sale creating a ton of noirish atmosphere. The gangsters seem like real gangsters. The storytelling has weight.
This, on the other hand, is a romp. Loeb's playing with his action figures. It's action-packed, superficial and so full of familiar faces that it reads like little more than a terminal dose of DC fanwank. (New readers loved it. Some old-timers disagreed.) I already wasn't wild about the cosy modern Bat-family, but it wouldn't be fair to judge them on this. Here, you'll meet Alfred Pennyworth, Amanda Waller, Barbara Gordon, Batman, Catwoman, Clarence, Clayface, Green Lantern, Harley Quinn, Harold Allnut, Harvey Dent, Huntress, Hush, Icicle, James Gordon, Jason Todd, Jimmy Olsen, the Joker, Killer Croc, Krypto the Super-Hound (which I loved), Lady Shiva, Leslie Thompkins, Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Martha Wayne, McQuaid, Nightwing, Oracle, Perry White, Pete Ross, Poison Ivy, Ra's al Ghul, the Riddler, Robin, Sarah Essen-Gordon, Scarecrow, Superman, Talia Head, Thomas Elliot, Thomas Wayne and Tim Drake.
Many of those are cameos and/or only appearing in flashbacks, but still. It feels lightweight. We're on a very episodic bus tour through the continuity, with a particular focus on buxom women in skintight outfits. (Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Huntress, Lady Shiva, Poison Ivy... what a lot of cheesecake.)
Theoretically, there's some strong material. Ep.2 almost kills Batman, which is a bit startling. I'd never seen him injured this badly before. The new ongoing villain, Hush, runs rings around Batman for ages. There are bits I like, e.g. Killer Croc's moment of self-awareness in ep.3, or the Batman-Superman relationship. Loeb tries to go somewhere with Batman-Catwoman and makes fundamental changes... until he hits a partial reset button at the end. She's still Catwoman, unfortunately, but until that backpedalling I'd had some respect for what the story was doing.
Jim Lee's art is exciting and I particularly love the painted style of the childhood flashbacks, although I'd guess that the credit for that belongs to the colourist, not the penciller. Lee's a star artist, currently DC's Publisher and Chief Creative Officer, and apparently this was his first major Batman work.
Some of the series's most startling details are inherited from the broader DC universe at the time, though. (Lex Luthor is the US President? Wow. After Trump, though, it's not so hard to imagine. You'd consider voting for him.)
Is it good? Nope. It's eleven exciting episodes that theoretically should have made a solid, epic Batman story, but have somehow managed to smother themselves in thistledown and goose feathers. It's that cuddly continuity overload. Batman can't turn around without seeing a familiar face. He's got too many friends... Catwoman, Huntress, Alfred, Jim Gordon, Oracle, three Robins, aka. Nightwing, Superman and everyone in Metropolis, the rest of the caped community, Dr Elliot, Talia Head (more or less), etc. Catwoman actually comments on it. Besides, it's hard to read the almost non-stop action of ep.1 without wondering how young the target audience's expected age is.
The real question, though, is "does Jeph Loeb have a sense of humour?" So far, the evidence would seem to be "no", although we are admittedly talking about Batman. That said, though, Loeb has a writing credit on the Schwarzenegger film, Commando, so presumably he breathes fire and crushes ball bearings with a finger-flick...