After watching the adaptation of Hush the other day, I decided that it would be a good idea to go back to the graphic novel. I don’t know how long it’s been since I last read it but it’s been a while. Is it entirely possible that I’m doing it because I knew I was ever going to finish my current read in time for this post? Possibly. But that shouldn’t take anything away from the fact that it was in keeping with my theme of the week. And it is one of those classic Batman story arcs. The kind that is so often referred to in lists of the ones read. But, if I’m honest, I’ve never been as big of a fan as other people. I didn’t know if I was just missing something or whether it actually was just massively hyped. Of course, it’s possible that the artwork was just making it seem better. I admit to falling for that so often. If a graphic novel is a bit meh but the artwork is gorgeous I’ll always rate it higher. But is that the point? Should it be let off for looking good if the story isn’t all that great?
Over 12 issues from December 2002 to November 2003, Hush brought together a whole host of Batman’s biggest foes and closest friends. It is a tale of a personal vendetta that sees both Batman and Bruce Wayne targeted by the mysterious Hush. Gotham’s greatest detective finds himself incredibly busy as pretty much every villain he’s fought makes their way of the woodwork. All of them doing things that you wouldn’t expect of them. But who has the power and inclination to get all of them to act so out of character? To find out, Batman teams up with Catwoman, his sometime foe. As the two get closer, can these old foes become something more? Will Bruce finally be able to let Selina in and finally get a happy ending?
Part of the reason that Hush was so popular is that it was one of those story arcs that had something for loyal readers and new readers. It is a perfect entry-level for people who wanted to get into the Dark Knight because it gave enough context for everything to make sense. As such, there are a lot of call-backs that may get a bit much for people familiar with the comics. But, it’s hardly a massive problem. Getting moody flashbacks of earlier stories isn’t the worst thing in the world. Especially when they are given the Jim Lee treatment. Jim Lee’s illustrations for Hush are absolutely breathtaking. It’s part of the reason that the recent adaption looked so simplistic. Lee’s work is detailed and just gorgeous.
Which is great because, let’s face it, the story isn’t actually all that great. The central mystery of “who is Hush?” is compelling enough but it’s not the most engaging Batman story out there. It won’t grip you in the way it wants. The final reveal isn’t all that surprising and all of the red herrings start to feel kind of pointless. It becomes painfully obvious that the story is being dragged out for as long as possible. And I get it. It’s an episodic comic book thing but that shouldn’t make it feel so much like little vignettes ties together under a fairly flimsy premise. There is so much going on here. It feels like overkill to include quite so many familiar faces. I get that it was supposed to be a huge draw but I feel that, had the story been more intimate, the mystery could have been more mysterious.
Although, there is plenty of great action and drama here. It might not feel wholly cohesive but it’s still Batman fighting bad guys, right? And let’s not forget the emotional aspects of the story. Hush is perhaps best known for the amount of time it gives to the potential romance between Batman and Catwoman. The pair finally confront their feelings and start to think they could make it work. There’s plenty of sultry melodrama between the pair. It’s a moment of victory for so many fans and has a pretty great pay off for those who have been waiting for it. Unlike the final reveal of Hush’s identity. It’s a massive disappointment when he is finally unmasked and his reasons are revealed. Hush could have a great villain but it just feels like such a letdown.
Hush definitely isn’t the worst Batman story out there but it is also not the greatest. It tries to do something original and different but doesn’t take it as far as it could. It relies too much on the old formula and stuffs its pages with every character it possibly can. As to be expected, there is plenty of duff writing here. Batman is a great character but he comes out with some right stonkers at times. I guess it’s to be expected but I guess I just want to see a graphic novel that doesn’t fall into that trap. However, Hush is still an okay read. And it’s perfect for first-time Batman readers. Get this out the way and get to grips with the Dark Knight. And then move on to the better stories.