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Closing The Book On Hush...

Batman #619
writer: Jeph Loeb
artists: Jim Lee and Scott Williams

Now some of us know who Hush is. And has it been worth all the hype? At the end of Loeb's labyrinthine and yet in some places sparse plotting, does it all make sense?

Well, I don't know about the hype part. Clearly, there was so much excitement ahead of time that the only sensibly fashionable thing to do was to be disappointed once it was underway. It's the nature of the beast.

But let's look at it from another perspective. The teaming of Loeb and Lee on Batman brought it to sales levels the book hadn't achieved in years, often hitting #1 on the charts. What that really means is that a lot of people who didn't read any Batbooks suddenly did. (Let's assume they're reading, anyway, though even Loeb would likely admit that a good deal of the attention was about Lee's art.)

By DC's standards, yes, it was worth the hype. If in exchange Loeb was a bit shackled to having to establish who is who and where they stand in relationship to Batman, so be it. He wasn't just writing for the fans, no matter how many times that phrase was bandied about. Loeb had to write for people who weren't fans of Batman.

Occasionally, individual issues moved glacially. The fabled and, yes, for me, over-hyped confrontation with The Joker spent a lot of time rehashing events of the past, a Joker's greatest hits, if you will. But for a lot of readers, possibly even the majority, that could be all new information.

Overall, however, Loeb managed to make a lot of changes to the status quo, while coming back around to the illusion that maybe nothing had changed. It's something he's a master at doing.

  • The Batman/Catwoman Romance: Suffice to say that at the end of "Hush," nothing will ever be the same between them, but less adventurous writers and editors are free to let it look like it is.
  • Two-Face: It's no spoiler to say that Harvey Dent has full control. Or does he? Again, a lot can be done either way. Even if his face has been repaired, there's still no guarantee his psyche has. Then again, we've seen in flashbacks a more reckless Dent than was originally conceived in the forties.
  • Harold: Too few writers knew what to do with him after his introduction many years ago. He would disappear for long stretches of time with no explanation or even acknowledgment. His death, at least, may have some resonance. The guilt Batman will now carry isn't so much about keeping Harold from being shot, but more that he didn't understand (or had no time to care) about what Harold really wanted.
  • Batman's Rogues Gallery overall: Almost all of them unchanged. But for two.
  • Hush: I know who he is. Do you? The revelations he makes to Batman change a lot of the meaning of the previous eleven issues. Like life, it's all a matter of point of view, and suddenly, I want to even reread the issues with The Joker that bored me the first time around. In the right hands, Hush could be a terrific addition to the archenemy list, especially as Bane seems to be fading into uneasy reformation.
  • Yes, one more change: Loebs works an upping of a long-time villain's formidability that would do his office-mate Geoff Johns proud. Let's not spoil it. Let's just hope that other writers remember it. How Batman counters the threat is classic and smart.

    As for Lee's art, you're either a fan or not. In truth, the Image days never impressed me. But this run has been solid, and Lee took some artistic risks that I would not have expected from my cursory glances in years past. Though he still seems most comfortable with big fight scenes and dynamic poses, he pulls off some tricky psychological scenes, especially in this last issue. The upcoming Superman run will be a blast.

    So does it all make sense? Yes. Taken as a whole, "Hush" is one of those stories you could show to friends who don't read comics, but maybe think they like Batman. The clues to the mystery are sown throughout, though Loeb does drop two key pieces to the puzzle only in this last issue.

    Loeb and Lee have opened the door for a lot of things to happen with The Dark Knight. DC, let it happen.


    Derek McCaw

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