For this week’s return to my Anime/Comics show, I’m taking a look at Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams. This was originally recommended to me last year when I expressed interest to a friend with a deep love of comics as a good entry point so I made sure to pick it up.
Originally run as a monthly series from December 2002 to November 2003, it was certainly interesting approaching this story roughly fifteen years later. From a time before Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins revitalized the hero in 2005, I found myself personally surprised by how many elements seemed particularly familiar to me from having played the Batman: Arkham games.
Spoilers for Hush (and Batman: Arkham City) ahead.
Hush introduces its titular character as a new villain into the Batman mythos: a mysterious new bandaged man who always seems one step ahead of Earth’s Greatest Detective and one who has brought together Batman’s cavalcade of rogues intent on breaking him. Hush’s identity is one of the ongoing mysteries of story but - because I remembered the Hush-centric side missions of Batman: Arkham City, I already knew the character. So when the series was also introducing Bruce’s childhood friend Tommy Elliott, the dots had already been connected. This takes away a little bit of the story’s final arc but it was still a delight to see a Batman who felt vulnerable.
Also slightly spoiled by Batman: Arkham City is the plot device of Clayface mimicking Batman’s friends or foes, which is here used as both a fakeout for a character’s death as well as a return of a deceased character as a mind game against Batman. Having seen that story played out (albeit with different characters) in video game form made it feel like a repeated approach here (even though this obviously came first).
But putting those elements aside, Hush does a great job bringing so many of Batman’s foes (and even some friends) together in an attempt to bring the Batman down. Poison Ivy uses her pheromones to mind control Superman in a great sequence. As alluded to above, Jason Todd - presumed dead - returns by way of Clayface trickery to remind Batman of his greatest failure. Batman even nearly kills the Joker after seeing him shoot (what he believes is) Tommy in an alleyway. It takes a grazing bullet from Jim Gordon to reign him in.
Hush proves a great foil for Batman and Bruce because of his connection as the childhood friend. We learn that his motivations are ultimately driven by a deep-seated hatred of Bruce’s family going back to when Thomas Wayne saved Tommy’s mother from the car crash he had orchestrated in hopes of cashing in the inheritance. When his mother did eventually pass, Tommy began dedicating his resources to identifying the best way to hurt Bruce and outsmart his alter-ego. The personal connection to Bruce and his ability to disorient Batman create a great debut for this character.
Throughout all of this, Batman is also distracted by a blossoming romance with Catwoman. The two share a kiss atop a Gotham rooftop that is repeatedly revisted in panels throughout the pages that follow. And as Bruce starts to uncover a larger plot at play that’s bringing his foes together, he can’t help but wonder if Selina isn’t just playing an angle. He fights this doubt and trusts her enough to reveal his identity to her but as the story draws to a close, an innocent “hush” from Catwoman as she leans in for a kiss is mistaken for something more sinister and Batman’s hostile response drives her away, leaving him alone again.