Us Batman fans are an incredibly lucky bunch. When it comes to The Dark Knight, there's a jaw-droppingly large library of fantastic and engaging stories just waiting to be read. Plenty of gifted writers have had the pleasure of jumping into Bruce Wayne's head over the years and crafted marvelous tales. From Frank Miller to Grant Morrison, these talented writers have blessed our eyes and our brains with some genuinely stunning stories.
When it comes to Jeph Loeb's time with Batman, many think of 'The Long Halloween' and understandably so. Me, though? 'Hush' immediately comes to mind. While it isn't the strongest mystery around, it's wildly entertaining and a visual masterpiece that I firmly believe is worth reading.
The twelve-issue story arc began in 2002 and is a crime thriller focused on an unknown stalker sabotaging Batman at every possible turn. This shadowy mastermind isn't working alone, either. Said villain has apparently manipulated a staggeringly impressive number of Batman's foes and even allies. Everyone from the all-powerful Superman to a virus-infected Killer Croc take part in this mystery and make the Caped Crusader's experience a living hell.
Despite the physical and mental stress of having so many villains come out of the woodwork, a huge part of this adventure is also Batman developing a relationship with Catwoman. Additionally, Loeb dives into Bruce's earlier years and introduces a childhood friend who is now a skilled doctor, Thomas "Tommy" Elliot. Who's behind it all and what does everyone hope to accomplish? Well, you'll just have to read it to find out, won't you?
While the story is a solid dose of popcorn entertainment, what makes it truly special is artist Jim Lee's pencils. From the first panel to the very last one, Lee fills each and every scene with amazingly detailed and magnificent work. Combined with Alex Sinclair's coloring and Scott Williams' inks, this is easily one of the best looking stories out there. Even if you're not the biggest fan of Loeb's writing, there's no denying the artwork will leave you impressed. There are countless scenes here that are sure to keep a firm spot in your memory. Batman's bloody hands as he stands over the Joker? Catwoman and Batman kissing on a rooftop? Batman slugging Superman across the face? These visuals are nothing short of brilliant.
One of the many elements which make this story so superb is its ability to please both new and old readers. You could have never read a single Batman comic in your life and this would still serve as a reading experience you can fully enjoy and comprehend. Not only does it cover a huge gauntlet of Batman's characters, it also does so in a manner that doesn't force feed you with tons of exposition -- therefore not alienating longtime Batman fans. Characters are introduced and, for the most part, discussed in a fairly organic manner. It'll inform you who the character is, but not weigh you down with their entire history. Furthermore, Loeb displays a solid understanding of each character and does justice to their distinct personalities.
Speaking of the massive cast of characters, 'Hush' is sporting quite a few iconic moments in Batman's rich history. Here, we see our hero pushed to the edge against the Clown Prince of Crime and comes extremely close to crossing the line. His fight against Joker in 'Death of the Family' looked like a stroll in the park compared to this one. The image of Wayne's blood-soaked gloves is one you're sure to never forget.
And how could I not talk about the Superman fight? I dare to say this fight with the Man of Steel is second to only their encounter in Frank Miller's THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. We all know Superman could obliterate Batman if he really wanted to, but Loeb places a key focus on why that'll never happen. People love abusing the image of Batman slugging Superman in the face, but I assure you Loeb's captions give both characters justice given the scenario. Simply put: it's a blast.
Red Hood fans, did you know this is the story that technically sees the return of the second Robin? Yes, Judd Winick's 'Under the Red Hood' is the story arc which revolves around his resurrection, but this tale has the little moments which buildup to it and are even reflected on down the road. And if you loathe the character, fear not because this is by no means a major part of the journey whatsoever.
Opinions are definitely mixed on the conclusion, but even if you're not a fan of how it all wraps up, it hardly diminishes the entire ride you'll experience. Filled with first-class artwork, immensely fun character battles featuring tons of familiar faces, an engrossing romance and solid writing, 'Hush' is a story every Batman fan needs to read at least once.