After 81 years and 1,000 issues since his first appearance, it’s obvious Batman has a lot of paramount storylines for both fans and newcomers alike to read and cherish. Every fan has their own respective all-time favorite story arc from the many stories over the years, so if you ask any fan what their favorite storyline is, you’re most likely to get a different answer almost every time. And while there are many, one such story is Hush, the story arc featured in 2002-2003’s Batman #608 to 619, written by Jeph Loeb with art by Jim Lee. Batman has had his fair share of bad storylines but Hush remains one of the most seminal.
When the story arc was first announced, Loeb promised an entire plethora of Batman’s rogues’ gallery to make an appearance and it was known a new villain would be introduced. The story was an immediate success among fans and readers, since spawning a 2019 animated film, setting the stage to make an impact to the future of Batman stories, and serving as a basis for one of the tales reimagined in DC’s Tales from the Dark Multiverse title as reported by Cat Lo in her Source article. In Hush, Batman’s villains seem to be acting more deadly and careless than usual – a fact Batman first notices when he saves a kidnapped boy from Killer Croc, noticing Croc is more beast-like in appearance and behavior. The story became paramount in Batman lore for two reasons: first, this was the first time one of Bruce’s childhood friends had appeared … and ended up a villain; and second, it’s the first time Batman revealed his secret identity (and the revelation stuck) to Catwoman, making their romantic relationship take front-and-center stage. Soon after confronting the cat burglar, Batman is gravely injured after his grappling hook line is cut. He tells Alfred to contact Thomas Elliott, whom he grew up with and is now a brain surgeon. What follows is not just a mystery of who is pulling Batman’s villains’ strings but also an exploration of Bruce’s inner thoughts.
As always, Jim Lee’s artwork is magnificent to behold but what truly stands out here is the flashback scenes showcasing Bruce’s and Tommy’s childhood, highlighted by inker Scott Williams. Loeb’s narration and writing as Batman – as seen before in The Long Halloween and following in Superman/Batman – is one of the most recognizable in forming the characters’ contemporary voice. Hush has to be one of the best Batman narratives written, paving the way for famous contemporary Batman writers Scott Snyder, Tom King, and James Tynion IV. One of the main reasons for this story’s success is not just its introduction of a new villain, but it’s superb utilization of his classic rogues, specifically Killer Croc, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, the Joker, the Riddler, Talia al Ghul, Ra’s al Ghul, Lady Shiva, Scarecrow, and Clayface. These villains are given an especially mean streak to them, a trend which would continue after this story as subsequent writers made once laughable villains such as Croc and Riddler a major threat. The story also teases a run-in with Batman’s former Robin, Jason Todd – now the Red Hood – who is discovered to be working with Hush.
What is one of the most memorable aspects to this story is the romance between Batman and Catwoman, coming to a head with that single page panel of the two caught in a romantic kiss and embrace at the end of issue #610. One of the even more surprising moments is when Batman reveals his true identity to Catwoman, making this a major establishment of Bruce and Selina’s romantic relationship, and paving the way toward the (in)famous wedding issue by Tom King. Even though it wouldn’t be the last time these two tussle, it was an interesting first conversation between Bruce’s new love interest and one of this most infamous, Talia. The story’s dialogue and drama balance very well with the action, featuring some great knock-down, drag-out fights such as Batman versus Superman, Harley Quinn’s assault at the opera, Catwoman versus Lady Shiva, and the closest time in contemporary comics that I’ve seen Batman come inches away from killing Joker.
Loeb would continue to contribute to Batman’s voice when he wrote Superman/Batman issues one through twenty-six (with art by Ed McGuinness), parts of which saw Batman and Superman turned to outlaws by President Lex Luthor, and re-introduced Supergirl with a new origin. Jim Lee has been around since the late 1980s, starting on titles such as Marvel’s Alpha Flight, Punisher: War Zone, and Uncanny X-Men, and all have been a great mark in his career; but his Batman and characters from Gotham have become some of the most marketable and recognizable depictions of Batman and his foes generations of fans have come to know and love! One of the most memorable aspects to this story was how it gave a rebirth to Riddler as a villain. He was mostly a joke as he can’t help but leave behind riddles as clues to reveal his next crime, but this story plants the seed of making Riddler an enemy who is not to be trifled with. As Matt Reeves’ The Batman is scheduled to be released in October 2021, and Riddler – played by Paul Dano – is set to be portrayed as a serial killer, one wonders if the intelligence and cunning the villain shows here will come into play in the film.
Hush immediately cemented its place in Batman legend as one of the character’s essential storylines to read not just because it furthers Bruce’s story but also because it can also serve as a great jumping-on point for newcomers. It’s one of the bestselling trades sold in comic book stores and clocking in at 320 pages, it’s a solid read that won’t fly by too fast.