Dear Lord, have I been stuck in a time loop for a year?
When I began my review gig at Batman News, I had no ongoing books I was assigned to review. All I had were miniseries: Batman vs Ra’s al Ghul, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity, and Tales from the Dark Multiverse. Initially, I was a little worried – what books would I end up reviewing when these comics faded away?
Apparently, not something I should have been concerned about – because only one of those books has actually finished. Batman vs Ra’s al Ghul has dropped off of the map post-issue #4, Criminal Sanity has suffered extensive delays comparable to Doomsday Clock, and now Tales from the Dark Multiverse is rearing its head once again, as if Death Metal wasn’t wearing me down enough already! These are limited comic runs, right? I’m not going insane, right?
Well in any case, at least this was a decent series. I ended up having issues with the format of the Dark Multiverse line by the end – issues that have frustratingly not been fixed – but overall, I found it a fun way to shine a different light on stories we’re familiar with, providing interesting takes on classic characters in the process. These aren’t mind-blowing stories, but they know what they are and they do what they want to do pretty well. Fortunately, Hush – written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and illustrated by Dexter Soy – seems to follow that trend!
What’s nice about this book is that it does what the other books I really liked in this series did. Like Dark Multiverse: Knightfall, it’s not particularly concerned about referencing the original story, so much as it is thinking about the kind of story you’d make after it. Dark Multiverse: Hush isn’t a book filled with references, homages and callbacks to previous stories, though it does have a similar spirit to them. Stories with Thomas Elliot are very good at drawing in other characters, and like the original tale, we see a vast variety of heroes and villains in markedly different positions than they’re in when you read regular DC books. Hush, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Barbara Gordon, Scarecrow, Talia al Ghul and Joker all have vastly different roles within the city of Gotham; and while you could argue the book includes a bunch of characters just for the sake of it (true), the execution is fun, and doesn’t seem very contrived.
Speaking of characters, I think Johnson writes them rather well. This is certainly the best writing Thomas Elliot has received since Paul Dini’s House of Hush… not that that’s a high bar. I like Hush – a lot – and think he’s very capable villain in the right hands. Trouble is, not many hands know what to do with him, because he’s a challenge to make interesting at times. The people who do it best are the people who lean into his arrogant nature as a white-collar cutthroat, and we see a lot of that here. Tommy spends most of this comic on the backfoot, but context clues, references and flashbacks show that he was especially cruel in his ascension to the top of Wayne Industries. It’s great to see his comradeship with Jonathan Crane make a reappearance, too – this feels like a book that’s happy to reward you for not only having read Hush, but other stories such as Heart of Hush as well. There are a few deep cuts in this book, and it’s very nice to see.
In general, it’s a well-paced book too! The action isn’t particularly special, but it’s not so much concerned with that. It’s far more interested in sinking you into the world, and it does a moderately good job of worldbuilding in a single issue. There’s the usual pitfall of having to push exposition into conversation for the sake of catching up the reader, but it’s not particularly obnoxious here. Johnson makes a point to whisk the reader from location to location, from the skyscrapers of the Gotham elite to the dilapidated Wayne Manor; each time he does this, we become a little more familiar with the universe the creators are constructing here, and I like the book a little more. Really, though, it helps that he’s working with a very capable artist to complete that vision!
Now, Dexter Soy is not the Jim Lee of the original Hush – a fact that is very obvious when you see him emulate Lee’s pages in the recap – but he is CERTAINLY no slouch, and that much is obvious in turn. This is a high concept book, so there’s a lot of effort that goes into keeping choreography clear; fight scenes in the midst of riots and populated warehouses, for example. Even when the backgrounds aren’t filled in as much as they could be, colorist Ivan Plascencia knows how to capture the mood of the scene: filling the space around the characters with appropriate blues and reds, making sure the tone of each page is retained in the final comic. This is good, because the final few pages of the book are illustrated by a different artist, so Plascencia’s efforts help to ease that transition. Overall, we’re looking at a deftly illustrated book here, that’s pleasant on the eyes as it guides you through it’s interesting inversion of Gotham.
…Batman looks dumb, though. Like, come on. Maybe you could have done another pass on the design.
- Hush is one of your favourite villains. We exist, I swear! Sound off in the comments if you like him, I need my coworkers to stop bullying me.
- You enjoyed the Dark Multiverse stories from last year; this is just more of that.
- You’re a fan of stories that show characters you love in positions they’d never be in when you’re reading mainline continuity.
Alright, why not! If DC wants to dive back into the Dark Multiverse again, I might as well enjoy the ride. Hush presents an interesting, compelling universe focused around one of my favourite villains – Heart of Hush was one of the first comics I ever bought physically, and it’s made me soft on the character ever since. Here, we see a fun continuation of that tone, and I’m happy that the Dark Multiverse line has returned with the same standard of quality that it had during its run last year. I may be stuck in a time loop – we all might be, depending on how the election goes – but at least I’m able to read some decent comics while reality collapses.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.
Author’s Twitter: @ObnoxiousFinch