Wr. Jeph Loeb
Ill. Jim Lee
When announced in 2001 that the superstar team of Jim Lee and Jeph Loeb would be taking over the Batman series for a year with a top-secret arc called "Hush," the news was met with joy and some doubt. Sure, Loeb on Batman seemed like a sure bet. Batman: The Long Halloween and its success proved that. The real issue was Jim Lee. Would the title suffer from chronic lateness much like Divine Right, his last monthly title? And if the book did come out on time, would fans even care? Several sell-outs and two Trade Paperbacks later, Hush is not only one of the best Batman stories in the last 10 years but it also skyrocketed Lee back into the comic book spotlight. Fans of Hush at one point could only get the entire run via back issues or trade paperbacks (two of them) but now comes a third option. Absolute Batman: Hush, a giant oversized hardcover.
The story starts off a simple enough. Batman is in the middle of rescuing the child of a very affluent man in Gotham City from a band of mercenaries. Moments before he gets the boy to safety, a newly mutated Killer Croc attacks out of nowhere. Catwoman is not far behind and a mysterious man in the shadows wrapped in bandages enters the picture as well, causing major problems in Batman's life. The question now remains: Who is "Hush?"
Jeph Loeb has had his fan base slowly rise from his debut on Challengers of the Unknown to his break out hit Long Halloween and Hush only adds to his set of accomplishments in the comic industry. High on action and pretty women with a dash of mystery and intrigue, this Batman story plays out like a Jerry Bruckheimer movie that will have you guessing from beginning to end. Who was Bruce Wayne's childhood friend? Will Batman and Catwoman finally hook up? Who is Hush? How far will Batman go to find out? All these questions and more will be answered.
With big Batman stories by Loeb, comes a large supporting cast and a few added surprises. A large majority of Batman's infamous rouge gallery from Riddler, Joker, Catwoman, and Scarecrow all show up. Nightwing, Robin, and Alfred also tag along. Basically, anyone that is anyone from Batman's history shows up in one form or the other. Did I mention a certain boy scout also makes an appearance for the ultimate Fanboy battle royale with the Dark Knight? Loeb is by far, one of a very few writers that can put so many character and into a book and still make it believable and entertaining. Not one character is a throwaway character put into the story for the sake of putting it into the story and for fans of a good story and great guest stars, it makes the book that much special. Strap on, comic fans, this is one roller coaster no Batman fan should miss.
While surprises are everywhere in the book, dialogue is sparse. How sparse? Reading ten issues took up about an hour and a half of my time. That is about 9 minutes per issue. Now, I have read Hush before so maybe someone less familiar with the story would take a long time to read it. The only issue I found with a lot of dialogue I believe is issue 614 (the best issue I think in the whole storyline) so if you are looking for a comic that is dialogued filled, this is not for you. But with Jim Lee art, who needs dialogue?
After at least 10 years in the business, Jim Lee's art has never looked better and if it is even possible, looks even better in an oversized volume. The pages are larger, which means there is more Lee art to enjoy. I am telling you, the art just speaks for itself. It will take your breath away, it will move mountains, it will make you do the forbidden chicken dance of Moekonkomo. To quote Triple H, it is "just that damn good." 'Nuff said.
As if Jim Lee in large format is not good enough, the book also comes with a nifty new cover drawn by Jim Lee of Batman standing on a building in the rain. Really moody and sets up the feel of the book nicely. The book is also a strong hardcover, which is always nice but be careful with how long you hold the book without the dust jacket. The black off the cover seems to rub off. High quality paper is also a plus for the volume, seeing how crisp and dynamic the art looks on it.
Extras in the book include an artist annotation on each issue, sketches, character designs, Lee's art process, different versions of key scenes in Hush, and an interview between Loeb and Lee about their process in making Hush and its aftermath. While the interview is neither informative nor fun as one could hope, I still suggest that new readers read this only after they have read the story because the interview does give away key plot developments in the story. (And while you're at it, if you really don't want to be spoiled, make sure somebody helps you mark the last chapter's cover so you don't see it. To say the cover blows the mystery is an understatement.)
For the Jim Lee or Jeph Loeb fan, to not have Absolute Batman: Hush in your personal library would be a crime upon humanity. The stunning art, high-octane story, this is one story that couldn't miss the Bull's-eye even if it tried. It is a visual feast of epic proportions.
Counter Review: Absolute Edition Batman "Hush"
I am severely torn between the good and bad of the Hush storyline, therefore I will digress slightly in trying to reconcile my inner differences.
When DC Comics announced the return of the most popular comic book artist of the 90's, I think I am safe to say, there wasn't one comic book fan out in the world, past or present, that did not take immediate notice. Suddenly the attention shifted from Marvel Comics. Jim Lee was officially back and was assigned to give credibility to DC's secondary (I would say Superman is first) flagship title...Batman.
It was a beautiful thing.
Apparently Jim Lee was tapped as the artist after the request of the writer on the project...Jeph Loeb.
Loeb is best known for his collaborations with artist Tim Sale on a variety of projects including Batman Long Halloween, Batman Dark Victory, and Spiderman Blue amongst others.
Batman, with Lee and Loeb at the head of the ship, sold out with every single issue, grabbing the Top 100 Diamond's sales spots in flurries of issue/variant variations and more importantly propelling DC Comics' status higher in the process.
But alas, should this generation's fan care about this story? Well, that's what we are here to find out. And unlike James Chan's review, I did not view this story as a must hav essential as he touts it so. The hype was there. But did the story as a whole deliver?
In my hands there rests Batman Hush Absolute Edition. Gorgeous in it's oversized entirety.
Jim Lee's art is absolutely beautiful and is represented on the highest quality of paper that slips from your finger tips with playful ease. There is no question that Jim Lee is a spectacular artist and his best and most ambitious work is represented within these pages. There are superbly drawn splash pages, fight scenes, oddly voluptuous women, lots of standing macho poses, and more sexy women.
What started out as a Jeph Loeb project, morphed into a Jim Lee project with some writer. And unfortunately that is legitimately presented within the Absolute Edition.
To get the gist of the story, you can read my friends' review. But aside from the fact that the art is unbelievable, the story lacks a lot of luster.
Jeph Loeb is a writer who I believe honed his craft to his present level on the backs of great artists. Those artists turned his generic and mediocre ideas into literate gems, blinding everyone in the process. Because if it sells, who cares if the story is any good?
And even though that business mindset is true, if you strip a man of his guns you reveal him to be nothing but a mere mortal and your equal (example Fantastic Four, Witching Hour, Superman monthlies).
Without the month to month wait to distill your emotions of the prior issues, the Absolute Edition reveals certain inadequacies within Loeb's story. There are plenty of plot holes and one can see excuses for him to throw in characters left and right for no apparent reason and then just connect the dots.
The "Who Dunnit?" structure has been revisited by Loeb for the painstakingly obvious, third time. Long Halloween was great, I have nothing bad to say about that book. Then came Dark Victory which followed the template set forth by it's predecessor without the polish and glory. And then Hush, which absolutely sapped that foundation dry of all prior creativity.
I do realize that writers rehash ideas all the time, but this just seemed positively ludicrous. And it unfortunately takes it's toll on the story. Twists and turns are not carefully thought out and it makes you wonder if Loeb wrote each issue with the mindset of "how cool would it be if..." instead of plotting it out from beginning to end.
The dialogue is absolutely horrendous. Batman's thought process interrupts each character's monologues creating an inconsistent pattern that is prevalent through most issues. Coupled with the fact that most of the issues end in or contain a barrage of uneventful overtly undramatic standing/swinging poses that are drawn over equally bad "dramatic" captions, proves the fact that Loeb has an inability to control the Batman character within this project, and that it simply becomes a Jim Lee art show(yes, that's a darn run on I think, but I want to prove something).
And unfortunately for us, the ultimate reveal makes very little sense and seems like a bad episode of the television show Alias.
The extras contained within are nothing to be desired about. There is an interesting annotated section where Jim Lee points out how he Alex Rossified certain panels with hidden things from his life. Other than that a stale interview with Loeb and Lee and all kinds of sketches and covers account for the rest. The sketches are clustered together on a bunch of pages without any commentary which is a major uhmmm...bummer.
Lo and behold, aside from the unnecessary interview, not a word from Jeph Loeb. Not even a sample script page or some commentary or even notes about each issue. If you carefully notice other Graphic Novels/TPB's that contain a certain amount of extras, writers are usually the most vocal about a certain project. In this case...in more ways than one, this exemplifies the fact that Batman Hush is Jim Lee's project. In fact, it is quite evident that he didn't even need a writer for it. And the only reason a writer was provided for him, was because he would have been late on his schedule.
And for some reason I have an issue with the gratuitous scenes that Jim Lee seems to draw. For example Lee throws an excuse to show Lois' cleavage as she falls from the grasps of Catwoman. There is no point in showing that she has a Victoria Secret's bra underneath her business suit. Just show her fall.
Poison Ivy has a lot of close lesbian encounters with Catwoman, not to mention posing scenes. And many of the female characters have a lot of sexy panel shots. For example when Huntress gets on her bike, and her cape falls to the side, we can plainly see the focus being on her athletic backside.
Models pose in calendars when water splashes over them. In Hush the women pose when debris falls all over them. There is just no reason for that...but what can you say, it's Jim Lee.
I will herein from this moment counter point several passages from within James Chan review.
"Loeb is by far, one of a very few writers that can put so many character and into a book and still make it believable and entertaining. Not one character is a throwaway character put into the story for the sake of putting it into the story and for fans of a good story..."
I don't believe that is entirely true, and especially within Batman Hush.
I have no idea why you would say that. Yes...uhmm...it is nice to see pivotal villains become mere one to two issue throwaways. Didn't Ra's Al Ghul once was the focus point of an all Bat title spanning epic, entitled Legacy? And he also was a main focus in the new movie. So, why is there a plot excuse after Batman finds some lazarus pit ash out of nowhere and goes out to find him? There is absolutely no reason for him being there. Furthermore Loeb's absolute audacity to throw in female characters Jim Lee's way is clearly shown. Suddenly the Huntress plays the game, and Poison Ivy (whose part in the "game" I don't even remember being explained). Loeb carefully weaves together a shaky story at best and plugs the holes with quick glue hoping they would last. And it all becomes a poor excuse to make Jim Lee draw everybody.
Honestly, I would have been fine with just Batman going places and doing actual detective work, rather than pulling hunches out of nowhere for a mindless introduction of someone new.
Loeb for some reason teases us with actual detective work, but none happens for more than a page as Batman swings away to fight another random baddie.
"Reading ten issues took up about an hour and a half of my time. That is about 9 minutes per issue."
Actually, that is "exactly" 9 minutes per issue. Not "about" 9 minutes per issue. You were never good in math anyway...I bet that took approximately 14.48 minutes for you to figure out.
"But with Jim Lee art, who needs dialogue?"
Uhmm, raise of hands. I do.
What's a story without dialogue? Sure you can marvel at Jim Lee's art but will anyone buy it if there's nothing written in it?
And for this matter, there is nothing worthy written in Hush. Lee throws an excuse to show Lois' cleavage as she falls from the grasps of Catwoman. There is no point in showing that she has a Victoria Secret's bra underneath her business suit. Just show her fall.
"...the book also comes with a nifty new cover drawn by Jim Lee of Batman standing on a building in the rain."
Ahh...if you notice carefully that's all that the characters do for a few issues. Stand and do things in the rain.
How overtly dramatic.
The covers were a real blow. The utterly insane last issue 3rd printing revealing cover ruined the entire series build.
"Extras in the book include an artist annotation on each issue, sketches, character designs, Lee's art process, different versions of key scenes in Hush, and an interview between Loeb and Lee about their process in making Hush and its aftermath."
Trust me, it's not that interesting.
You can pick this up for around $30-50 and probably less on auction sites. But honestly, will you spend that much cash on something that is only nice to look at and flip through?
I definitely wouldn't.
- Pawel Goj