Batman: Hush (Volumes 1 & 2)
Despite coming spread across 12 chapters and two volumes, it's impossible (or at least a bit daft) to do anything but review both volumes together. But let's start with the title: Hush has a number of layered meanings in this book, but perhaps most of all, it's a plea to the reader not to reveal its secrets to those who haven't read it. Think "Rule number one: don't talk about Fight Club."
The first chapter is little short of amazing, following Batman in an investigation to free a kidnapped child being held for ransom. The narration comes from Batman's point of view, providing a fascinating insight into the mind of a superhero, while grounding the fact that this particular hero uses applied science, technology and brute force, rather than super-powers, to achieve his goals.
But after that it starts getting a bit silly. We start on an epic journey through the pantheon of Batman villains - volume one sees Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Killer Croc and Superman battling Bats, with a strange underlying secret figure controlling them all. Volume two follows similar lines, with obvious adversaries like the Joker and the Riddler showing their faces, but also a few surprise guests that we won't bother to spoil your fun by revealing.
What starts as a detective mystery deteriorates into a bit of a romp. It's not any less enjoyable for that, but it's far from ground-breaking. After the first few chapters you get into the rhythm of the piece, to the extent that the surprises aren't surprising because it's so predictable that they're coming.
Batman fans will be able to deal with this easily, mostly because it's such a pleasure to see all these familiar characters in the masterful hands of Jim Lee and Scott Williams, providing what is amongst the best art you're likely to see in a Batman comic. Where Jeph Loeb's plot descends into farce, the holes are plugged with iconic art, pulling the experience back onto its feet.
Although the story is far from being as central to the Batman mythos as Year One, The Killing Joke or The Dark Knight Returns, it's a fun march through Batman's history, revealing a few secrets and managing to pull a few surprises. That it originally ran within the normal course of the Batman comic has allowed it to make a few changes and take a few liberties, but it's the artwork that makes it special. Fight Club it ain't.
Comment on this graphic novel review