Author: John Bierly
Sunday, July 20, 2008

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: "A 'Batman: R.I.P.' issue and part 1 of the 5-part story 'The Return of Hush!'

Readers who were surprised by Catwoman's return last month haven't see anything yet as Hush makes a dramatic return to the life of Batman. What will this mean for Bruce Wayne? This epic story kicks off the countdown to DETECTIVE #850!"

Sorry this is a bit late, BOF Gang; I'm on vacation in Los Angeles and I can't stop going to see THE DARK KNIGHT. I hope you can forgive me.

DETECTIVE COMICS #846 finds our capable ringmaster Paul Dini kicking off the five-part "Heart of Hush" storyline. Dini has cranked out some cracker-jack two-parters during his run on the book, but this will be the longest story he's told yet.

I think he can handle it.

Hush, of course, is Tommy Elliot, a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne's who hated Thomas Wayne for reviving his mother. You see, little Tommy wanted to inherit his parents' fortune and sabotaged their car. His father died in the crash, but Thomas Wayne's surgical skills kept his mother alive and the money in the bank. And since little Tommy couldn't try to kill his mother again without raising suspicion, he waited and planned his revenge against Bruce.

Be sure to familiarize yourself with these events in BATMAN: HUSH, which collects the story that originally appeared in BATMAN #s 608-619. Jeph Loeb's story brings in all of Batman's most important villains and allies, and Jim Lee draws it like only Jim Lee can. But avoid HUSH RETURNS, a pathetic attempt at a sequel (that didn't even have an ending) that played out in the pages of BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS under the clumsy direction of A.J. Liebermann.

This issue begins with an inspired villain called Dr. Aesop, who builds his crimes around fables, sending a pack of wolves after a two-bit crony called Lefty Knox as he narrates "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." Catwoman intervenes and Lefty proves to be more than he seems when he reveals that the "hook" he has for a right hand is of the grappling variety. Lefty whisks himself and Catwoman to a rooftop and we quickly find out that Lefty is Batman in disguise.

In another example of inspired writing, Catwoman wants to take Aesop down because he's buying animals on the black market to use in his fable-inspired crimes.

Nobody writes Batman and dames like Paul Dini, and I love the exchange between Batman and Catwoman. Batman asks Catwoman for a team-up, but she throws a mention of Jezebel Jet (from the pages of "Batman R.I.P." that's currently playing out in BATMAN) back in his face. Batman tells Catwoman that Jezebel is in Paris and says it's for the best anyway, since this case is "for the animals." It's a fun play on a phrase; they're doing it for the literal animals Aesop is smuggling, but The Bat and The Cat are animals in their own way. Well done.

Hush watches from afar, expressing typical disgust about Bruce's frequent encounters with women and adventure. He's also not happy about The Black Glove (also from "Batman: R.I.P") muscling in on what he sees as his sole right to kill the Batman. And his plan involves an abandoned hospital staffed by homeless people he's placed into some kind of zombie-like trance.

What a nut.

He also gets a letter from a mysterious mentor and performs some self-surgery on himself while thinking back on the fact that he should have known Batman's individual villains would have proven too unpredictable to fully pull off his previous plan.

This time, he's doing it all on his own.

Dini tells the origin of Tommy's original murderous plan against his parents in a flashback that features amazing art courtesy of the handsome, unique pencils/inks of Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs and the warm colors of John Kalisz. It's chilling stuff, especially Tommy's scene with his post-accident mother, whose heavily bandaged face chillingly foreshadows the bandages Tommy will someday wear himself as Hush.

It's great stuff.

Batman and Catwoman have another encounter with Dr. Aesop, who's using a quite un-cowardly lion in his latest murderous caper. They are victorious, but Hush interrupts with a violent resolution of his own and a warning to Batman that the most dangerous villain is the one who can strike from afar.

And so the stage is set. I really liked Dr. Aesop and his use of real, fable-inspired animals in his crimes.

And, as always, I loved the elegance and efficiency of Dini's script coupled with Nguyen's art that's so perfectly suited to these kinds of stories. And how about that cover?

Okay. We'll do a longer review of the next issue. For now, I need to get ready to go see (again) a little movie you might have heard of called THE DARK KNIGHT. - John Bierly

Indiana native John Bierly started writing for publications when he was 17 and never stopped.
His favorite things in life are family and friends, concerts, burgers, Mountain Dew, and of course...
You can read his blog at JOHNBIERLY.COM.

© 1998-present BATMAN ON FILM. All rights reserved. Material from BOF may not be reprinted without permission.