artists: Jim Lee and Scott Williams
blares DC's triumph. "IT BEGINS HERE!" They mean the storyline
"Hush," but what really begins here may not just be Batman's
return to being a top-tier character, but a top-selling book
it even hit the stands, this hotly anticipated (thus highly
ordered) issue had sold out, according to a DC press release
from yesterday. Fans haven't wanted a Batman title this badly
since…well, Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Strikes Again.
this time around we have a few differences that make this
issue a real ground-breaker.
isn't a special mini-series; instead, this marks the first
of twelve (minimum) issues in the title's regular run. The
only real production acknowledgment that we've got something
special on our hands is in the book's fine quality paper.
Nothing new to that, you say, but DC has offset the cost of
the book by running a few ad pages at a much cheaper grade,
thereby giving fans high-quality at the lowest price the company
has to offer: $2.25.
the recent controversial Frank Miller mini-series, superstar
Jim Lee has put himself under pressure to maintain a monthly
schedule. Somewhere in there, a bet has been made, and he
aims to win it. Rather than skimp on quality, though, Lee
did the smart thing. He started working on it a few months
before he let DC announce that he would do the book.
the artwork is beautiful, and worth the wait. As fans, though,
we've been burned enough by pretty books that mean nothing.
(Earth X, anyone?). Luckily for Lee and readers, the
guy tying it all together is an underrated master.
to Batman, Jeph Loeb has proven himself as having a unique
insight to the character again and again, usually teamed with
Tim Sale as artist. Though writes entertaining regular monthly
books (including a recent run on a Superman title), Loeb excels
when doing a story unfettered by the demands of continuity.
guess what? Let's call it less than a week before Bill Jemas
proclaims Batman to be Marvelized. And it doesn't just
start with putting two dynamite creators on an old book. Within
the confines of a regular series, Loeb and Lee have begun
a maxi-series that plays to the writer's strengths. He doesn't
have to worry about everything that's going on in the other
Batbooks (a welcome, welcome change after a series of mediocre
crossovers). Instead, Loeb will obviously be playing with
what Grant Morrison calls "consistent characterization," an
approach that has cleared up the X-Men morass quite well.
behaves like Batman. You don't have to worry about how this
might ripple into the other books. Whatever you need to know
about a character comes out of the writing, not references
to earlier adventures.
also pretty good. The book starts with Batman on a rescue
mission, taking down mercenary thugs one by one. As each minion
goes down, Batman's thoughts betray just how many mental moves
ahead he stays at all times.
you don't give Jim Lee just thugs to draw. By the sixth page,
Killer Croc makes a savage appearance, in one of the few two-page
spreads this year that doesn't seem gratuitous. (Lee got in
at the ground-floor of the artist-driven comics craze, but
few who came after him remembered to let the art still serve
the story.) He draws a monstrous Croc, and thankfully Batman
acknowledges that he seems to have mutated.
there we get one heck of a well-done fight scene, followed
by a dizzying trip through Gotham's rooftops in pursuit of
Catwoman. It's almost like a videogame, an effect which might
bring in a few new readers. Loeb manages to keep that structure
still serve the plot. Maybe some screenwriters and directors
should take a look at this.
like the Loeb/Sale Batman books, "Hush" is purposely designed
to let Lee give us his take on the majority of Batman's rogues
gallery. (There's a third villain by the end of this issue,
but you should just buy the book to find out who.) But Loeb
is too good a writer to just trot them out one by one. Already
a fine thread appears woven through, as this issue sets up
several mysteries. The only thing breaking up the flow is
that it's only 22 pages. "To be continued," indeed.
Loeb's earlier work on the character took on a Batman defining
the beginning of his career, this series has the feel of the
hero fighting to stave off the end of it. In a poetic but
still kinetic moment, Batman admits "…first, my body betrays
me. Then, my city follows suit. We have both grown too old
see: plague, earthquake, isolation, Lex Luthor, too many true
loves…yep. In just a few sentences, Loeb sums up that really,
Batman and Gotham City have suffered more than a "ten-year"
career should hold. And again, new readers don't really need
to know what those tragedies were; in Loeb's deceptively simple
writing, it's enough to know that Batman suffered.
have been consistent of late; neither too great nor all that
bad. If you liked the character, you bought the books. But
with "Hush," Batman absolutely deserves its status
as number one.