Because Batman is a character who is one of the most consistently depicted and most well-defined heroes of all time, he has been subjected to countless era-defining stories. In 75 years, there are at least 50 stories, either single issue or story arc, that can be pointed to as stellar examples of The Dark Knight.
In the category of modern classics, writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee’s Batman: Hush is equal parts engrossing mystery and blockbuster action story. Not only that, but it also depicts Batman and his enormous gallery of villains in spectacular fashion. If comics were films, Hush would be the summer movie event that packs the crowds into theaters. Except no Batman film will ever reach the dizzying array of heroes and villains packed into this 12-issue story that spanned from 2002 to 2003 or include the explosive set pieces that fill these many pages.
While there may be Batman stories that delve more deeply into The Dark Knight as a character or ones that shake up storytelling conventions more, Hush is a fantastic entry into the Batman cannon. Offering some of the character’s greatest artwork and some of his most defining moments in recent years, there are countless reasons why no Batman fan should pass up Hush.
A New Mystery Plagues The Dark Knight
Through and through, Hush is a mystery, which is great because Batman is a detective. Yes, a detective wrapped in spandex, covered in bulging muscles, and prone to fighting intergalactic superpowered gods with his fists, but still a detective. His many crime fighting tools are at the forefront as well, with night vision goggles and digital readouts on criminals’ weaknesses creating a particularly memorable scene near the beginning.
Beginning with a fairly simple kidnapping, Batman is quickly drawn into a larger conspiracy that involves Poison Ivy controlling Catwoman and a devastating brain injury that brings Bruce Wayne’s long lost childhood friend back into his life. It quickly becomes evident to both reader and Batman that a mysterious figure with his head wrapped in bandages is controlling these events. Enticing villains to take down The Caped Crusader and working to turn his allies against him, the man who will become known as Hush makes a big splash in his first appearance in comics.
Batman runs himself ragged attempting to solve the riddles following him everywhere, but must accept the help of the people who care about him in order to truly succeed. Through these 12 issues, some of the greatest moments in Batman’s 75-year career are created, including The Dark Knight fighting a Poison Ivy-controlled Superman (he wins!) and the shocking reveal of a supposedly resurrected Jason Todd. Altogether, Batman: Hush is the kind of epic story a stellar character like Batman is able to give audiences.
Jim Lee has long been a fan favorite artist in comic books. His art balances both highly detailed character work with a great expression of movement. Characters are proportioned in ways that are only possible on a comic book page, yet they still feel real and relatable. Both heroes and villains spotlighted in the story are true to their classic renditions while still feeling new in various ways.
Batman in particular is given some of his most memorable images under Lee’s pencil, with the hero looking like the iconic figure we all have formed in our minds. Through countless rain-soaked alleys, storming nights, and even some sun-soaked cityscapes, The Dark Knight looks instantly iconic while still feeling like a living and breathing character. Lee also slowly changes the look of Batman throughout the 12 issues, transitioning him from a hulking mountain of muscle like Frank Miller’s Dark Knight to a lithe and acrobatic fighter like Neal Adams’ Caped Crusader. Part of it is Lee slowly molding how he envisions the character, the other part is paying tribute to the many iterations of Batman.
While Lee may not do subtle page layouts or poses, his work fits perfectly with the bombastic roller coaster ride of a story that Loeb sets out to tell.
A Cavalcade of Villainy
Batman’s rogues are some of the greatest villains in all of fiction and Loeb wastes no time parading them through Hush. While part of the story’s fun waiting to see who will show up next (it’s pretty obvious from the start that this tale will throw in practically everyone), they don’t feel forced for the most part. Best of all, each villain’s introduction is unexpected, as Loeb makes sure that the story does not telegraph who is logically coming next.
Loeb also uses many of Batman’s most iconic enemies in new ways. For once, The Joker is not the mastermind of a story involving him. Instead, he’s set up as a patsy to incur the unjust wrath of Batman, who almost kills his lifelong nemesis in a bloody back alley beatdown. The once mostly human Killer Croc is transformed into a nearly mindless beast, making him more terrifying than ever. And Two-Face takes a most unexpected of roles as the man also known as Harvey Dent reasserts his good side in an effort to reclaim his life and aid Batman when the situation turns dire.
The Best Kind of Fan Service
It seems as though Loeb and Lee set out to tell a defining Batman story. Whether they completely succeeded is up to each reader, but they certainly crammed Hush with everything that a Batman fan could ask for in a comic.
Batman truly works as a detective throughout the narrative, piecing together the puzzle of who is targeting him and pulling the strings. The many members of the Bat Family all come into play at various points, with Nightwing and Robin playing particularly important roles. Batman’s relationship with Catwoman turns a new corner, with the characters giving into their emotions and also allowing Bruce to reveal his secret identity to Selina Kyle. Plus, Batman takes part in a wide range of battles, including a brutal showdown with Killer Croc, a swordfight with Ra’s al Ghul, and a battle of wits with The Riddler.
Fans are even given the chance to see Batman beat Superman in a (mostly) one-on-one fight. Using his wits, a Kryptonite ring, and the entire Metropolis power grid, Batman shows he has the skills to take on The Man of Steel, even if the only victory is snapping Superman out of his mind control. Combined with his many definitive victories over various foes throughout the story arc, this is a Batman who is truly a force to be reckoned with. Thankfully, a few major bumps and bruises along the way keep him from feeling like an unbeatable protagonist.
Reinvigorating The Caped Crusader
When Hush was announced, Lee and Loeb were both already giant stars in the world of comic books. Teaming them up and attaching them to the medium’s premiere character was enough to make fans lose their minds. And it wasn’t just the announcement that sent shockwaves through the industry. Hush was a bonafide hit throughout its run, selling out across the nation and reaching sales that had not been seen in years.