I stopped collecting comic books around 1996 or 1997. The hobby was no longer interesting; it became too expensive to buy new issues because speculators were driving the prices up, and the incessant need to throw all of the hyper-kinetic and overdrawn X-Men styled art on everything. Given that I had missed about twenty years of storylines, there had to be some good stuff in there, right?
I affectionately call this period my ‘blind-spot.’ I missed The Boys, and countless other things that had already come and gone. In 2002 there was a nine issue story arc that occurred in the pages of Batman, which later had been republished many times as Batman: Hush. It was a story that was written by Jeff Loeb and drawn by Jim Lee. I have been trying to catch up on older Batman stories that I’ve missed, and last year, I made my way through Hush. I can understand the acclaim; the story was quite engaging with some great artwork by Jim Lee. I’m not the biggest fan of Lee, mainly due to my dislike for what was the comic book trend of the mid-nineties (of which I still can’t help but unfairly lump him in with). That being said, his work on Batman in general should be commended.
I did have some problems with Hush, however, which is why I was concerned when I had heard that Warner Animation was going to be releasing an animated version last year. One of my biggest problems with the graphic novel had to do with the ending. I thought that the motivations of the antagonist ultimately proved to be too simplistic and materialistic given how epic the story had played out. Recent DC animation takes a great deal of liberty with the source material, and considering I had already felt Hush ended up shitting the bed by its final pages, my interest in the animated film wasn’t strong to begin with.
Oh boy, was I right?
Hush revolves around a mysterious stalker with a bandaged face that seems to be going out of his way to kill Bruce Wayne and The Batman. Hush has managed to gaslight a great deal of Batman’s rogue’s gallery to make Bruce’s life a living hell. Every villain from Bane, to Joker, to Poison Ivy seem to be pawns in Hush’s master plan. Along the way, a strong romance has blossomed between Batman and Selina Kyle (Catwoman)…
You know, I don’t want to rehash the plot. In the comics, Hush was a fairly long story arc that remained quite intricate for the most part, and the initial reveal of Hush’s identity, while telegraphed somewhat early on, was one of the more fascinating elements to the story. His motivations may have been rather gnar-gnar, but there was still a fairly strong who-done-it story that was engaging and thrilling. The animated version doesn’t even scratch ninety minutes, so if you are familiar with the story you can probably guess that much of the story had to have been condensed or recombined. I get that, anybody would, but whoever decided to revise the big reveal the way they did here need to understand that the results are disastrous. It is such a hairbrained compromise that what was already a sketchy ending, has been turned into an unbelievable clusterfuck. I suppose those not familiar with the source material will be fine with it, but just another fifteen minutes of production budget could have salvaged this. But the biggest mistake was the end sequence between Bruce and Selina. During the pages of the comic, while the romance was a palpable one, there was also a tension that was building along the way. During the climax, the final conversation between the two had a certain poignance. In this film, it comes off as a hollow and empty throwaway excuse for drama.
Oh well, Batman: Hush is a brisk view. If you lower your expectations, you’ll get some decent action for Warner Animation standards and a chance to run into some of your favorite characters. But as an adaptation, perhaps Warner should invest a little more in their Animation department rather than churning out cynical cash grabs such as this.