Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artists: Jim Lee (p), Scott Williams (i)
In his hunt for the true identity of the mystery mastermind who has orchestrated a series of attacks against him recently, Batman purposely seeks out a conflict with his old enemy Ra's al Ghul. While Batman is able to secure a victory over his old foe, he discovers Ra's al Ghul knows nothing about the mystery villain. Meanwhile, Hush pays a visit to the home of Jim Gordon.
As I get further into this Hush story arc the more I become convinced that Jeph Loeb is simply working his way down a list of events & characters he believes fans want to see play out in the pages of a Batman comic. So we have the big Superman/Batman tussle, the battle to the "death" with the Joker, the Catwoman/Batman kiss, and about a half dozen fan favorite villains on hand to keep things moving right along. Now yes there is a underlying plot that acts to tie it all together, as we have the mysterious Hush acting as the one who's pulling all the strings. However, when the villain seems to be doing little more than making our hero jump through hoops, and the obstacles that Batman has to overcome read like a play-book of what a writer should do to elicit a positive response from the book's fan-base, I start to notice how empty this book feels at its core. Basically it's a series of cool events tacked on top of a central premise so flimsy that it would have a difficult time carrying a single issue let alone a year long arc. Still, a sword fight between Ra's al Ghul & Batman makes for an interesting diversion.
As for the art, Jim Lee is the big name in this duo, as I imagine most of the fan-base increase is his legion of fans coming to see his art, and it's certainly worthy of such devotion, as it's a tightly detailed style that manages to cover all the basic elements of good art. Plus, one simply has to love the opening & closing big impact panels of the sword fight.
Perhaps longtime Batman fans will draw more enjoyment from this issue, as I do suspect a large part of my disappointment is due to the book's heavy dependence on the reader being excited by the prospect of a simple sword fight between Batman & Ra's al Ghul. Now I'll concede that the fight is interesting enough, and the ending is certainly a solid surprise, as it's not often you see such a decisive finish to a fight. As for the big clue we learn that Hush is likely a villain who was presumed dead, but given my lack of knowledge about Batman's corner of the DCU, and which of his villains are supposed to be dead, I can't say this clue was much help. The fight between Catwoman & Lady Shiva is pretty intense though, as it's quite clear that Selina is way out of her league in this contest.
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