To put things in perspective, I had just turned five years old when the first issue of Batman: Hush hit comic book shelves in 2002. Kind of crazy, right?
It really amazes me to see how people experience certain comics, characters and series for the first time. For me, my first introduction to Hush didn’t come from reading the series itself, but from playing the Arkham video games. As a result, and with a new animated movie now in stores, I wanted to read the actual comic to get the full story and prepare myself prior to checking out the movie. I’m only 17 years late to this party, but that’s better than not showing up at all!
Now that I’ve actually read Batman: Hush, I feel like there’s just so much to unpack. As a quick recap, the story follows Batman as he tries to make sense of a huge crime uprising that has Gotham’s core villains acting unlike themselves. Batman discovers that a mysterious newcomer, who we later learn is Hush, seems to be the connecting factor, and as all of this is happening, Bruce also has other personal issues that he must deal with. It’s definitely a very physically, mentally and emotionally grueling time for the Dark Knight.
As far as first impressions go, I was stunned by the artwork and coloring done by Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair. I love how Lee, Williams and Sinclair entered the DC Universe as a team, and even now, many years later, they still frequently work together. That so many pages and panels from Hush have become so popular over time, shows how Hush’s artistic impact is still very much relevant today.
To be quite honest, I’m really disappointed in myself for not having read this book sooner. If anything, I wish this would’ve been one of the first Batman comics I read. It includes so many characters (both heroes and villains) and ties in major events from The Killing Joke and A Death in the Family. It’s a well-rounded story that anyone new to Batman comics could easily follow and understand. Even though it’s jam-packed with so much, it still carries a gripping story and tantalizing mystery at its heart.
Writer Jeph Loeb shows the complexity of this story in his writing, especially through Batman’s thoughts on each page. The blue dialogue balloons bring us into Bruce’s every thought and offers a different perspective to what the main story provides for us. This is my favorite part of Hush—it helps us really get to know Batman in more ways than I thought I could, especially when it comes to understanding his feelings during the more difficult parts of the story involving his childhood friend Tommy Elliot, the still-dead Jason Todd, Joker and most importantly, Catwoman.
These are all people who have had a major emotional impact on Batman. Tommy grew up with Bruce, so no doubt that his betrayal would strike a major chord in Batman’s heart. The (kind of, but not really) return of Jason Todd that happens in this series reveals just how much guilt and blame Batman carries over his death.
Jason’s murder, the death of Commissioner Gordon’s wife and Barbara Gordon’s close encounter with death were all done at the hands of the Joker—these are all reasons that many would say offer justification for Batman murdering him. But seeing Bruce come so close to killing the Joker in Hush was very intense and shocking for me. Batman has killed before, but in this story it just didn’t feel right. In his mind, he was so sure of it, but on the outside looking in, it was clear he wasn’t actually thinking it through.
Finally, and most importantly, Selina Kyle’s role in this story is one that is also center to the plot. Catwoman and Batman team up here and Bruce’s thoughts are pretty occupied with the feelings he has for her. He trusts her enough to reveal his identity and bring her to his Batcave, but deep inside, he’s still not sure if he should trust her given her past.
I love how Catwoman is portrayed as this independent, feisty, beautiful and strong woman. She’s reforming from her past as thief, but can she be fully trusted? The BatCat romance really seems to be a forbidden love—even in their present day comics, there’s not a definitive answer to what their love will become or even a guarantee that it’ll become anything.
One last point to mention is how cool it was to see practically the entire Batman rogues gallery in this comic. Ivy, Harley, Joker, Clayface, Killer Croc and more made their appearances and actually had purpose to being included in the story. It wasn’t just for show. Ivy, in particular, really surprised me when she took control of Superman. I feel like sometimes Ivy’s abilities can be taken for granted, but she sure showed me what she’s capable of here.
Batman: Hush really is one of the greatest mysteries that The Bat has ever had to solve. During my readthrough, some parts of the mystery were easier to predict than others, but I honestly was not expecting the Riddler to have been the mastermind behind it all. Maybe that just means I need to read some of the Batman comics published prior to Hush to understand better, but regardless, it made me realize just how intelligent and capable the Riddler is to be able shake up Batman and all of Gotham City. I’m excited to see how this classic story will play out in its film adaptation.
With that said, now that I’ve finally read one of the most iconic Batman series to ever exist, I’m off to go watch the new Batman: Hush animated film. Make sure you watch it too and stay tuned for my thoughts on it next week!
Lissete Gonzalez writes about film, TV and comics for DCComics.com and is a contributor to Couch Club, our weekly television column. Look for her on Twitter at @lissete74.