Batman: Hush, Vol. 2
by Jeph Loeb,
Jim Lee, Scott Williams
(DC Comics, 2003)

Batman pursues the enigmatic mastermind whose chess-like maneuvers are pitting him against the Joker, Harley Quinn and Ras al Ghul. Working assiduously with Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, Huntress and a still-highly-suspect Catwoman, Bruce is torn between his desire to trust and perhaps even love Selina, who now knows his identity, and his desire to keep her away from him to minimize the chances of losing yet another person he cares deeply about. His emotional state slowly grows more strained the closer he gets to the schemer who mysteriously anticipates his every move.

Not short on melodrama, there is an emotional reunion with a lost-long member of the Batclan and a betrayal from within Bruce's very small circle of trusted friends, not to mention the conclusion -- of sorts -- of the confrontation between Batman and the antagonist who claims to be a resurrected Jason Todd. All the while Bruce is continually ducking assassins who are set on him by the person who wants to see him destroyed. The hardcover version of this story also contains the eight-page "filler" story previously published only in Wizard #0, the magazine relaunch.

This series had a monumentally high reach, attempting to incorporate as many memorable, long-desired-by-fans scenes while still being a suspenseful detective story. It did succeed in many respects, with each chapter in the series a masterpiece of cliffhanger writing. It keeps you glued to the page, racing to the next installment to find out what's going to happen next. It does contain a number of fantastic scenes: the showdown with Superman; the kiss between Batman and Catwoman; the possible return from the dead of the nigh-mythical Jason Todd; and of course a highly memorable rendition of the ultimate question: what would it look like if Batman killed the Joker?

The series is helped along by some stunning artwork, which, although stiff and with little difference in facial gestures or body types, is lovely just to look at. It is prose unto itself, giving much needed substance to a rather lightweight story. It completely steals the scene from the somewhat expository dialogue and a plot whose reach somewhat exceeds its grasp.

There are so many dramatic highlights that the story is rushed. The dramatic highpoints, while visually beautiful, have a rather made-to-order feel to them, as if it was more important to capture a memorable scene than a memorable story. Batman seems to be less a proactive, functioning detective than reactionary paranoid who merely allows himself to be moved from one set-up fight scene to the next, expending very little effort in actually solving the case. The result is that the story feels under-imagined, with functionally one-dimensional characters. The dialogue is straightforward to the point of being boring, telling the reader what's happening without getting into the head of the hero.

The story is additionally hampered by the nonstop double crosses and fake-outs that comprise each ending. The motivation for the scheme, when it is revealed, is rather weak and the villain involved is not a very imaginative choice.

Loeb's impossible escapes and memorable scenes are entertaining and the story is a tense one, but it's hard to take the story at all seriously. It's good, clean fun but not very substantive. Don't be surprised if, at the end, you're still left wondering just what, exactly, did happen in the series. Just enjoy it for the light fun that it is.

- Rambles
written by Mary Harvey
published 27 December 2003

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