Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Comics I Wished I Brought With Me: Batman "Hush"

I had read raves and reviews for Jeph Loeb's writing. His "color" series at Marvel; like, Spider-Man: Blue, Hulk: Grey, Daredevil: Yellow and Captain America: White generated a lot of positive buzz. So did his Superman For All Seasons, Batman: The Long Halloween, Dark Victory and Catwoman: When In Rome. I'd never had the chance to pick up something he had written. I did see episodes he had written for Smallville, Lost and Heroes. Still, had not had a chance to pick up a comic book written by Jeph Loeb.

Until Batman: Hush.

There was a good deal of hype surrounding the "Hush" storyline in Batman comics 608 - 619. It involved artist Jim Lee working a year-long story arc. Famous for his work on X-Men at Marvel, he left to form Image comics and create WildC.A.T.s. He later spun that title off onto his own Homage Studios imprint under Image, then moved it over to DC, eventually selling the imprint to DC. In 2011, under The New 52, his characters Grifter and Voodoo returned for a brief time. After the "Hush" storyline ended in 2003, Lee moved over to Superman comics for the twelve-month "For Tomorrow" storyline.

"Hush" was a BIG deal.

It had been a long time since I had picked up a mainstream Batman comic. I consider myself a Batman fan. Toward the late '80's I was reading Batman and the Outsiders. I followed Batman back, when he returned to the Justice League. In the '90's, both the Batman line and brand expanded and Batman titles featured "events". Like the "Death of Superman" event, Batman titles featured the "Knightfall" storyline, where the criminal Bane broke Batman's back. Bruce Wayne was replaced not by Dick Grayson, but by Jean Paul Valley, who was also known as Azrael. With the success of that, a cycle of "event" stories followed. "Hush" was a brief break in that cycle. A single storyline running, with no crossovers with any other Batman-family titles for twelve issues. Now that was an event! Bear in mind that at any given time, on a monthly basis, DC Comics publishes anywhere from a half dozen or more Batman-related titles: Detective Comics, Batman, Batgirl, Batwing, Batwoman, Catwoman, Legends of the Dark Knight, Nightwing, Robin and Shadow of the Batman. Then, there are the guest appearances that Batman makes in other titles, as well as his role in Justice LeagueWorld's Finest Comics, Superman/Batman and the current Batman/Superman. Right now, DC is celebrating Batman's 75th Anniversary with a weekly Batman Eternal.

So, Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee collaborating on a stand-alone twelve issue storyline in Batman was kind of a big deal. A big enough deal that an eight-page chapter was included in Wizard magazine.

Hush was such a big deal, that following the 2009 release of the Watchmen film adaptation, Batman 608 was re-released for a dollar, under the heading "After Watchmen...What's Next" as incentive to draw in new comic book readers from the film.

I wish I had room in my suitcase to include the entire twelve-issue run of "Hush". I can see why Jim Lee is a fan-favorite artist. I liked his work on WildC.A.T.s. His work here is just as good. I have to confess that I am not a fan of The New 52 costume redesigns. I'm not sure how much of a hand Lee had in those; but his work before the reboot relaunch of The New 52 Justice League and the "Origin" storyline is much better than what I've seen since. This is the same artist that gave us a nearly insane Batman in All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder.

The first chapter of Hush in Batman 608 starts out with Batman rescuing a kidnapped boy being held for ransom. The hired thugs guarding the boy work under Killer Croc. Batman is racing the clock to free the boy before Croc returns with the ransom. And, before Gotham's finest intervene. Batman rescues the boy; fights and beats Croc and his gang. Then the ransom is stolen by Catwoman. Batman chases her to recover the ransom, but has his Batline cut and falls from the sky into an alley. Catwoman turns over the ransom to Poison Ivy, who has entranced her. Over the next eleven issues, the storyline becomes a run through the streets of Gotham involving Batman's supporting cast and rogues gallery, bringing back the late Jason Todd as Red Hood, introducing a new villain, called Hush and ultimately (SPOILER ALERT!) revealing The Riddler as the mastermind of the entire plot. The Joker makes an appearance, but it is pretty much a token.

While it got some good buzz, it also got a critical review.

Still, Jim Lee is a fan-favorite artist. I put him up there with George Perez and Alex Ross. There are a number of critically-acclaimed and fan-favorite artists. Lee would probably be voted to head the list. Along with his work on X-Men and WildC.A.T.s - rebooting re-launching Justice League - Hush is probably one of the reasons.

I wish I had room to bring all of the issues instead of just the first chapter. It would be fun to pore over the entire series page by page.

On my first trip to Kiev, to bring my son, Justin, home, the first issue of Justice League had been released. I pored over that first issue for seven weeks.

I did not get to see how that storyline turned out until after I came back home.
I think Hush stands the test of time.

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