Batman has had a long, complex history in comics. 75 years worth, in fact. While we here at Batman News strive to stay on top of every new issue and release that features the Dark Knight, the Bat-family, and his Rogues Gallery that comes out on a weekly basis, it’s that history that has made the character who he is. So, join us as we begin a new feature: Back Issue Reviews.
What we’ll be doing is going into the quarter bins, longboxes and, uh, online stores and looking back at defining issues, arcs, and runs featuring the Batman. These could be stories that may have been overlooked when they were released, arcs and events that have ties to the New-52 continuity, or they may just be a great stories that are worth revisiting. As long as we can find it easily, we’ll review it.
To kick things off, I’ll be looking back at a story arc that, if you’ve been reading Batman Eternal, has some renewed interest and relevance these days. From Batman #608-619 back in 2002-2003, Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee embarked on an ambitious, year-long story that brought together the entirety of the Bat-family, his most famous villains, and even Superman to unravel the mystery of a new threat to Bruce Wayne’s life.
That’s right, I’m talking about Hush.
Funny story: I’ve never actually read this all the way through. Now, I’ve started a few times and gotten a few issues in, and I’ve thumbed through some of the later installments and, through reputation and the fact that I know how to use the internet, know what goes on in the story, but I’ve never read the entire thing. So for you, dear readers, I’ve dusted off a copy of the trade and will finally dive head-first into one of the most popular Batman stories of the new century.
Just know that, from what I know of the character, I don’t think Tommy Elliot is that great of a villain; rather, he seems like one of those characters that we’re told is threatening and dangerous by characters in the book, but he’s never really lived up to that reputation or done anything to make himself truly compelling. Conversely, characters like the Joker and Harvey Dent have back stories and motivations that make them really frightening or tragic characters, as it were, whereas with Hush it’s almost like we’re told “this guy did this stuff, so you should be scared of him.” It’s telling, not showing, is what I’m getting at. But, again, I haven’t read this whole thing, so let’s see if my opinion changes.
To keep things relatively brief (this is a twelve issue story after all, including the introductory origin/motivation recap and the Wizard Magazine interlude), I’ll focus on each issue and write up a short summary of the events and my thoughts on it. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that just about everyone here is at least aware of this story so spoilers shouldn’t be a huge issue (also: it’s a twelve year old story so I think the moratorium on spoilers expired a loooooong time ago), but I’ll try to keep things relatively accessible to everyone.
Well, let’s just dive right in, shall we?
Prelude: Batman: Who He is and How He Came to Be
We begin with an overview of Batman’s origin as narrated by Alfred, and it’s pretty solid. Even though it’s all through narrative text and no actual dialogue, Loeb writes Alfred really well. These words sound like something he would say, in the manner of a proper Englishman who isn’t afraid of showing affection. At only two pages in length, it moves briskly, highlighting the night at the theater (to see The Mark of Zorro, of course), the tragedy in Crime Alley, and Bruce’s vow and dedication to end crime. The colors in particular are great, with each panel almost being monochromatic with the use of different shades of red, blue, orange or grey, as it were. The final panel is a nice throwback to one of the earliest images of the Dark Knight as well.
No radio tower, though. Lame.
It’s a great start and good introduction to the character, which may be unnecessary but it’s always nice when people emphasize the importance of Alfred to the Batman mythos.
Part One: The Ransom
The story truly begins with Batman finding a young boy, Edward, who was being held hostage by an unknown entity. He makes easy work of the guards with an ongoing inner monologue running. It’s really Batmany, detailing the history and training of each of his victims as he takes them down, and representative of his characterization for the past three decades or so: square-jawed, stoic, and humorless.
That’s not to say it isn’t cool, though. It’s not terribly exciting, because most everyone is taken down in a single panel, but it’s all presented in the first person which allows for some interesting layouts and angles.
Eventually, a mutated Killer Croc ambushes Bats, but that doesn’t last long. My favorite line of the issue comes when Edward is dropped off with GCPD: “… but… I want to stay with Batman.”
No time for that, though, as Batman runs off to chase Catwoman, who has stolen the ransom money. It’s a pretty engaging chase, but it’s cut short when Batman’s grapple line snaps and he lands in an alley with a bunch of homeless guys, I guess. Amazingly enough, that’s the most implausible thing I’ve read so far in this story.
The issue ends with a full page reveal that Catwoman is working for Poison Ivy, which is kind of pointless because you can see her in several panels on the preceding page. But whatever.
My initial thoughts: Jim Lee’s art is uniformly solid, if a bit sloppy in a panel here or there, though his bulky Batman is a bit too big for my tastes. I prefer the leaner look of, say, Jim Aparo’s Batman, but he still looks fine. Loeb’s script is wordy, and maybe a little too gritty and expository, but they’ve at least set up a decent mystery.
Alright, that one took way too long, so let’s see if I can’t speed things up in issue two.
Part Two: The Friend
Can I talk about Huntress for a second?
I like the concept: mob daughter wants revenge against the mobsters who killed her family. Kind of like a female Punisher, only more Catholic and not quite as violent. In practice, though, the character’s never really made a huge impression on me, unless you count outright rage after read Devin Grayson’s Nightwing/Huntress abomination. Maybe I need to read Birds of Prey or something, I don’t know.
Long story short: her costume here is dumb. You know which one I’m talking about. She does make her entrance via a pretty sweet motorcycle jump, so I guess it’s a wash.
Anyway, the most notable thing about this issue is we’re introduced to two new characters: a mysterious figure whose face is wrapped in bandages (SPOILER: that’s Hush) and Thomas Elliot, a childhood friend of Bruce and top surgeon who we hear about for the very first time ever in this issue (SPOILER: he’s Hush probably). I mean, hindsight is 20/20, but it’s pretty obvious what’s going on here, right? Was it really that big of a shocker that the guy introduced in this story ended up being the villain also introduced in this story? Simpler times, my friends.
In all seriousness, I really like the almost watercolor look to the flashback scenes. They’re distinct, a bit hazy like a long buried memory can be, and have just the tiniest amount of dread to them. Great stylistic choice, I have to say.
The lamest thing that happens this issue: Alfred says Bruce’s injuries are beyond his skills, so Oracle recommends Shondra Kinsolving. She was the nurse who helped Bruce recover from his spinal injury after fighting Bane, using a psychic healing power she had to make him able to walk again at the price of her own mind. The last time she was seen she had the mental functions and faculties of a five-year-old. I’m not kidding.
When Alfred mentions that she might not be in the right state of mind, Oracle says “she got better.” Then she’s seen as an attendant during the surgery.
This is never explained.
Part Three: The Beast
The biggest revelation this issue, at least for me: Amanda Waller was apparently President Luthor’s head of meta-human affairs. I remember Lex was president for a time, but didn’t know that.
The flashback in this issue is pretty affecting, in all honesty. Tommy’s reaction to his father’s death is just heartbreaking, and much more moving than the retcon in Batman Eternal.
Now, I haven’t read Eternal for a few weeks so I don’t know if there’s been any more backstory, but so far this Thomas Elliot has a little more depth than the crazy from the start New-52 Hush. Then again, some of the best villain origins in the game have been changed drastically since the reboot (poor, poor Victor Fries…), so it looks like Tommy here got off easy.
The rest of the issue is pretty rough. Batman tracks Croc, but the Batmobile loses a wheel (hardy har har) which… I don’t know how it’s resolved, but for a guy like Batman who always has victory in the preparation, he’s getting sloppy.
Then we finally get what we’d waited 60ish years for: Batman and Catwoman make out.
I’m certain it goes about as well as you’d expect.
Next issue… aww crap, this is when he punches Superman, isn’t it? Lets… let’s just get it over with.
Part Four: The City
The opening flashback in this issue may be my favorite moment so far: young Bruce and Tommy go to Metropolis and witness the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, battling the Icicle. I’ve mentioned before how I like the watercolor aesthetic of those scenes and it’s truly gorgeous here. Amidst the blues and grays of everything else, Green Lantern is these vibrant yellows, reds, purples and greens.
It’s lovely work, and combined with some throwback trivia that Scott was stationed out of Gotham it’s a wonderful scene.
Bruce and Tommy have a conversation in the present, with Bruce’s mind constantly going to Selina, and it’s actually pretty funny, though they’re laying on the foreshadowing and Thomas’ importance in Bruce’s early life a little thick.
Next stop: the Daily Planet, where I learn something else new, namely that Bruce was the owner of the newspaper for a time. This book is like a history lesson, let me tell you.
This scene also has the distinction of containing one of the silliest moments and two of the better pieces of dialogue so far. As for the former, Bruce contacts Barbara about something at LexCorp that needs investigating, and he signs off the instant message with “gtg.” I laughed pretty hard at that, but it’s not something I would have taken Bruce for.
The two bits of dialogue are about the relationships between different characters, and Loeb gets it pretty spot on. First, in his internal monologue, Bruce notes that Perry White is too good of a reporter not to have figured out Clark Kent’s secret (he’s Superman, if you didn’t know… somehow) and relates that to Jim Gordon’s skills as a detective. It’s a nice parallel, especially for White who seems to frequently get lost in the action despite being an integral supporting player for so long.
The second line comes from Lois, who tells Clark that, despite how Bruce acts in costume, the two of them are still friends. That’s another trait that gets lost a lot, especially lately: despite their differences (or maybe even because of them), Batman and Superman are best friends. They keep each other grounded in completely different ways.
Anyway, I actually learned two things this issue: the thing with Waller, and that Talia is the head of LexCorp. Jeez, it’s like I didn’t read comics or something when this came out.
Oh, wait… I really didn’t…
Then we find out Superman is being controlled by Ivy and… remember when I said Bats and Supes are friends? Can it stay that way?
Part Five: The Battle
Well… it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.
Batman and Superman fight in this issue. Ever since The Dark Knight Returns, it seems people have looked for any excuse to replicate that (in)famous punch at the end of the book where Batman lays out Superman with the power of Gotham City itself behind him. That story isn’t anywhere close to my favorite Batman story for reasons that aren’t really relevant here, but the fight at the end makes sense because of the history between the characters and the build-up in the story itself. These two heroes have known each other and fought side by side for years, and the one who was the “moral center” of the superhero universe is the one who sold out and became a pawn to the government. Batman, even with his harsher methods and dirty, dank city behind him, never compromised and used that, symbolically, to claim victory over Superman. It’s iconic, incredibly symbolic, and makes sense in its context.
Everyone else just wants to show Batman wrecking Superman because it’s so cool, but superhero in-fighting has gotten so out of hand these days that it would be nice to just see them high-fiving and being bros or something.
It may just be that, 12 years on, I’ve seen this scenario thousands of times, if not an outright physical conflict then a conflict just the same. It’s gotten pretty old, if for no other reason than because nobody does anything fresh with it. It’s also why I’m concerned with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice drawing so much inspiration from The Dark Knight Returns, but I guess at the very least it’s not The Dark Knight Strikes Again.
But back to the issue at hand. The fight is staged well, mostly in the (lead-lined) sewers beneath Metropolis, and Batman thinks through the fight just as much as he uses his fists, which is nice. He uses Superman’s powers against him, utilizing devices like sonic grenades and flashbangs to overwhelm his senses, and he even uses Metropolis’ power grid to stun Clark, a clever enough reversal from their fight in the earlier work.
There’s also a scene where Batman has little propellers pop out of his boots, which is adorable and about two shades less corny than this.
The issue ends with some pretty nice character moments, including Bruce telling Clark he knew that even under mind control he wouldn’t let an innocent person get hurt, and that they do trust each other and are, indeed, friends.
We also see a shadowy figure spying on the two of them and laughing after their comments about friendship, and I’d think it would be pretty obvious who Hush is at this point. It hasn’t exactly been subtle.
Next up: I assume the Joker is in this one, because Harley Quinn is on the cover? Let’s see where that goes.
Part Six: The Opera
It’s kind of crazy to think that, before this arc, Harley Quinn had only been a part of the mainline DC universe for about three years. She was introduced to the public much earlier than that in Batman: The Animated Series, of course, but it took the better part of a decade for her to debut in the comics.
Harley features heavily in this issue, posing as the lead at the opera and robbing Tommy. Why is she in Metropolis? Apparently, she went there with Ivy, which is a nice nod to their team-ups in the animated series. I mean, let’s face it: the two of them work well together.
Everyone likes a fashion montage, right? No?
Huh. Moving on.
There’s an appearance by Dr. Leslie Thompkins, who is always nice to see, and Loeb proves that if nothing else, he writes Alfred really, really well.
Then there’s also this scene, which is so blatant that it goes beyond foreshadowing:
We get some more hints at Tommy’s destructive temper via flashback, and Harley accuses Catwoman of being a sidekick. She becomes furious, and it’s honestly pretty hilarious.
I know I haven’t been commenting on the art as much as I would in a normal review, but I will say that Jim lee does some pretty cool stuff here. The anatomy of the characters is still beyond impossible, but there’s a really neat panel where Catwoman is chasing Harley and they’re bouncing around the stage with the speech bubbles following the motion.
There’s one line of Harley’s that may have been an editorial mistake, but I kind of liked it: “and people in ice water want Hell.” I’m sure it’s supposed to be the other way around, but that kind of nonsensical statement actually fits the wackiness of her character.
Whats too much of a stretch, though, is Batman remarking that the opera patrons thought their fight was part of the show. That’s just… yeesh, that’s dumb. This is a world where this kind of thing goes on all the time, and also they live in the same city as Superman. I can accept a lot in comics, but that’s just too much.
Anyway, we get some hints that this whole thing was staged, then the Joker finally shows up and kills Tommy.
Maybe he isn’t Hush after all…
Part Seven: The Joke
This issue is made up almost entirely of Batman beating the crap out of the Joker. He thinks Tommy is dead and looks back upon all of the lives the Joker either changed or took: Barbara and her paralysis, Jason’s death, and even what would happen were he to kill Selina. I’m not sure if Tommy’s apparent death affected him more or if I was just the breaking point, but I suppose it’s the latter. I mean, any death is tragic, but you’d think Bruce would feel it a bit more when his teenage ward died than he would a guy he hadn’t seen in years. Don’t get me wrong, a death is a death, but the pathos isn’t quite there.
Anyway, Catwoman and Gordon are there to try and snap him out of his bloodlust, and it’s actually pretty terrifying that the Joker keeps saying “stop” while Bruce is beating him. It ends up being an excuse to tell a joke, but it’s still pretty chilling.
There’s a nice bit where Bruce asks how many more lives they have to let the Joker ruin and Gordon says he doesn’t care because he’s going to keep him from ruining Batman’s, and the issue ends with Hush flipping Two-Face’s coin. So I guess he’s next.
Part Eight: The Dead
We open on Tommy’s funeral, with Bruce lamenting that he’s not one to ever have the right thing to say, especially in trying to sum up a man’s life in a few sentences. More telling is Tim’s question to Dick, if he’d ever heard Bruce mention him before, and that’s a pretty apt bit of meta-textual self-awareness.
In the Batcave, Bruce is obsessing over the crime scene, claiming that the Joker didn’t actually kill Tommy. Nightwing is taken aback, but Bruce insists he saw what he was meant to see and that somebody is playing a big game with all the major players, from the Joker all the way to Superman. With Oracle’s announcement that the Riddler just stole $11 million, another villain enters the fray.
Listen, I know how all this ends, but at this point the story is starting to feel forever long and I’m just now at the halfway point. I have a feeling this could have been trimmed down by at least four issues, but I guess they wanted capital E “Epic.”
We do get a shot of all the Batmobiles, though, so that’s pretty sweet.
Two nice little moments here: at the funeral, Bruce muses over the fact that he has more family “than it seems,” which is a pretty important aspect of the character. As brooding and independent as he can get, Bruce really wants the family that was taken away from him, which is what makes his supporting cast so great.
Second, and related, is the acknowledgement that Dick has always spoken to him without fear, and he’s earned that right. As tumultuous as their relationship has been over the years, Bruce and Dick love and care for each other, and again, it’s a nice reminder from Bruce himself that he recognizes it.
The scenes between Dick and Bruce, especially in the Batmobile, may be some of the best scenes so far in the story, which is nice because, like I said, the mystery is really dragging at this point. There are some obvious-in-retrospect clues about the true mastermind behind the whole ordeal (noting that up to this point, the Riddler has been ignored), and yet another villain is hinted at: ash from a Lazarus Pit is present in Nygma’s van.
Two major events occur at the very end: the return of Harvey Dent and Bruce revealing his identity to Selina. They’re actually staged pretty well, with each event presented in panels running parallel to each other, and it’s… strongly hinted that a now healed Harvey is actually Hush. There also may be a reference to The Long Halloween, another Loeb joint, with Harvey saying the Joker beat him in front of his wife on Christmas, but it’s been awhile since I’ve read it so I may be imagining things.
With Bruce and Selina, meanwhile, it’s… strongly hinted that they start making out. End scene.
Part Nine: The Assassins
I don’t know if it’s supposed to be funny or not, but this issue opens with Batman clandestinely boarding an already in flight LexCorp jet, all the while thinking about how they stole the schematics for a Wayne Enterprises jet and the ensuing lawsuit. It’s mainly to set up the reasoning behind how he knows the layout of the plane so well, but the thought of something so mundane as copyright law occupying Batman’s mind is hilarious to me.
Batman tracks down Ra’s to North Africa, while Selina keeps Talia hidden back in Gotham. This issue was a one-two punch of too much for me, as Bats and Ra’s have a sword fight in the desert, harkening back to their duel in “The Demon’s Quest” story, and Lady Shiva ambushes Catwoman and tries to spirit Talia away. The former was yet another example of fan service, which I’m not against if it’s subtle and serves a purpose, but this story has had so many moments like this that it’s getting old. The latter, well, if I were taking a shot every time another villain showed up, I’d have been incoherent around chapter three.
There is a pretty decent scene between Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon, where we discover that Dent may not actually be behind all this. We also get our first look at his face since reappearing, so that’s kind of neat, and it’s told that Gordon’s old police issued handgun was the one that was used to shoot Thomas Elliot, so the plot thickens!
Oh, and Ra’s says one of the Lazarus Pits was used recently, so who does Batman know that would want to return from the dead? The plot thickens even more, it seems!
But first, an…
Interlude: The Cave
In which Bruce brings Selina back to the cave, she sees all of the scars on his body, and Alfred thanks her for the positive change in Bruce’s demeanor. That’s it. It’s, like, seven pages.
Seriously, though, it’s a real nice moment between Alfred and Selina, particularly when he says that contrary to what she may believe, he thinks the world of her. As much guff as I’ve been giving the increasingly bloated narrative, it’s these quiet moments that really make this story worth reading. They’re genuinely great and, weirdly, are much more exciting than the action scenes.
Part Ten: The Grave
If I’m not mistaken, this was actually the first issue that I flipped through way back when this arc was running, and it was also the one that made me not want to read the whole thing. But we’ll get to that.
My favorite thing about this issue: Robin using his Disappointed Dad voice. It all ends up being an act, but it’s pretty great seeing Tim get so uptight and downright upset that Bruce, a thirty-five year old man, didn’t ask him, a sixteen year old, if he should reveal his identity to Catwoman. Selina almost straight up murders him for getting catty (ha HA) with her, so maybe he and Bruce should have given their plan a second draft.
Selina takes one of the motorcycles and is overtaken by Huntress and her stupid costume. Helena is speaking gibberish and they start fighting in the rain, but Selina doesn’t have much to worry about because Helena will catch pneumonia or die from exposure soon so whatever.
Huntress starts hallucinating that she’s fighting herself in her less dumb outfit, and I was pretty sure she was under Mad Hatter’s control because at this point why not?
Turns out, it was Scarecrow, because he hadn’t shown up yet, and he rides in on Huntress’ motorcycle which is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.
Well, second behind Scarebeast
Hush kidnaps Robin and takes him to a graveyard, where he reveals himself to be Jason Todd.
I hate Jason Todd. A lot. I hate to say the best thing he did was die, but… yeah. There were some great stories that came from it, and it made way for the best Robin, so Jason’s death was a tragic necessity.
This is where I checked out before, because I figured if they went with a cheap reveal like that, the rest of the story couldn’t be much better.
I know now what the twist here is, but it really isn’t that much better because they went ahead and brought him back from the dead a few years later anyway and he’s been searching for relevance since then.
Ok, only two more issues.
Part Eleven: The Game
Haha, just kidding! It was Clayface.
The line of reasoning that made Bruce figure out it wasn’t was pretty clever: he was too good to be Jason, and he never referred to Batman as Bruce, which Jason would have. Then again, when Bruce thinks over everything that set this in motion (the cut Batline, landing in Crime Alley, the destruction of the tire Jason tried to steal from the Batmobile), they all prove to be red herrings for the sake of red herrings, which at this point makes most of this narrative feel like a waste of time.
Bruce figures out who betrayed him: Harold the mechanic. He was a mute character, a genius at electronics and mechanical work and originally one of Penguin’s goons who reformed and started working in the Batcave. This scene is kind of silly, because Batman asks him why he did it, and is then shocked when he speaks. I mean, I would be too, but it’s set up like he was expecting him to answer, and if he knew Harold shouldn’t be able to respond, that just seems a little cruel.
Then tragedy strikes and Harold is killed. I have never been more upset at the death of a comic character, and I’m only sort of kidding.
Before that happens, we’re given a few more hints as to the identity of the real but not really mastermind behind the plan: Harold was promised that he could be healed of his physical and vocal handicaps, which was what used to get him to betray Batman. Bruce says he can forgive him, and delivers possibly the most Adam Westian line ever written in mainline DC continuity: “The desire to be happy can be very powerful when exploited.” Most of the time I hear his lines in Kevin Conroy’s voice in my head, but that one was pure West.
One issue to go!
Part Twelve: The End
In which we discover the true identity of Hush, the actual mastermind behind the plot, and… I’m sure something else will come up too.
The ending just seemed too pat and easy, even with the last minute revelation that Hush wasn’t the real villain of the story. Really, riddles aren’t what Nygma’s is obsessed with, but proving that he’s smarter than everybody. The riddles are the means, not the end. If he could figure out the Batman’s true identity, why wouldn’t he share it? It’s a weak bluff Batman used, and some pretty weak writing to back it up.
Even worse is Hush’s motivation. He doesn’t come out of this looking like a credible threat to Batman at all. His motivation isn’t outright terrible, as other villains have held grudges against heroes, but a kid being jealous of someone whose parents died because he got money? But he’s also a handsome, world-renowned surgeon? Maybe someone else can shed some light on his appeal, because I’m not buying it.
The book ends with the dissolution of Batman and Catwoman’s relationship, all because she tells Bruce to “hush,” which is another in an increasingly long line of dumb decisions made at the end of this comic. I mean, jeez Selina, that’s kind of cold.
Before I give my overall opinion, I’ll split it up into highs and lows, since we all love lists.
- Save that last scene, pretty much all of the quieter moments are spot on. Loeb understands that Batman’s as good as his allies, and he really demonstrates a good grasp in their interactions. Alfred is the father, Dick is the equal, Barbara is the invaluable genius, Tim is the partner who earned his place. Even Selina gets some great character moments beyond being “just the love interest.”
- Jim Lee’s art is fine. That sounds like faint praise, but it’s not. There’s nothing really stellar here, but some of the action scenes are pretty solid and it’s never difficult to tell what’s going on.
- There are a few moments of genuine humor that really land well.
- Superman and Batman become bros again at the end, I guess, so that’s nice.
- It’s shorter than Batman Eternal, which I’ve all but given up on.
- The plot was simultaneously convoluted and paper-thin. There were so many threads going on, but once it all came together, nothing really happened.
- The Long Halloween had a ton of villains, but at least their involvement there somewhat made sense. Here, it seemed like an excuse to have an appearance by that villain you love in place of a solid story.
- It was way too long. The constant red herrings and superfluous plot threads could have been trimmed into a pretty taut four or five part story, but I guess when you’re superstar creators of Loeb and Lee’s calibre you’re allowed to go as long as you want.
- Too many hamfisted nods to previous stories and events. I’m sure I’m in the minority here, but if I never see Batman punch Superman again it will be too soon.
- Lee’s art, while… fine, was also pretty generic. The character models consisted of impossibly buff men, impossibly sexy women, and Robin. I knew who everybody was supposed to be, but they still looked the same beyond their different costumes.
- Hush was not interesting as a character. At all. He’s an old friend who we’ve never heard of who was jealous of Bruce and got mad that his dad saved his mom’s life? All because he wanted hush parents’ money? There was a lot of potential for a great, menacing threat there that just wasn’t realized.
- Come to think if it, pretty much everybody was motivated by money, so he just ran together with everybody else. At least his side-quest in Arkham City was pretty sweet.
- Jason Todd. Seriously, forget that guy.
Recommendations: If you want a great story from Loeb, check out The Long Halloween, of course, and Dark Victory which isn’t perfect, but definitely underrated.
While I was reading this, I also got through a few other series. Batman isn’t in it, but check out Loeb and Sale’s A Superman for All Seasons. Behind All-Star Superman and a few issues of Superman Adventures it’s one of my favorite Superman stories, and it may be their best work together.
If you want a great Batman story featuring Jim Lee’s artwork, so do I. Let me know if it exists.
Overall: If you can’t tell, I didn’t love this story. Maybe it played out better over a year, maybe Hush becomes more interesting later on, I don’t know, but it doesn’t hold together very well when read all at once. There’s some great character work here that really elevates the material, but the meandering plot that ends up being pretty inconsequential really starts to drag way too soon. I referenced The Long Halloween and, while I love that story, I don’t expect everything to measure up to it. Here, however, it’s impossible to ignore its influence. Both it and Hush were year-long stories centered around the mysterious identity of a killer. Whereas the mystery of Holiday used its themes to great effect and at least somewhat made sense of all the characters, this story seemed like a retread of better ideas.
Saying that, though, there were some genuinely great moments. Bits of dialogue about Bruce’s need for family, his interactions with his loved ones, and the spot-on characterization in the quiet moments really helped to elevate this.
Trimmed down to, say, five issues while retaining all of those great character bits and this could have been a top ten all time story, easy. Instead, it’s a long, bloated, meandering mess that feels like something that was written specifically to be epic, but it never reaches those heights.
I may not have made any friends with this review, but hey, I appreciate conversation. Tell me what you guys want. Do I need to read other stories to get a better understanding of Thomas Elliot? I’ve been told this comes full-circle in Heart of Hush, so should I pick that up? Is there another story you want to see me tackle? Let me know in the comments, and I look forward to doing many more Back Issue Reviews soon.