Current Reviews


Batman #618

Posted: Saturday, September 6, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artists: Jim Lee (p), Scott Williams (i)

Publisher: DC

The book opens with Batman trying to piece together how the man standing before him could possibly be the late Jason Todd (aka. the second Robin) back from the dead & rather ticked off that Batman left him dead and buried when the DCU is littered with methods of bringing a person back to life. As the angry Jason Todd also expresses his anger that Bruce went out and got himself a new Robin, we see Batman is quickly forced to defend himself from Jason's furious attack. However, as they fight, Batman is quick to note that while Jason's fighting style is familiar, it's not the style that Jason Todd used when he was Robin, and this combined with some awkward phrasing is enough to tell Batman that the man he's fighting is not who he claims to be. After Batman exposes the deception, and the villain pulls a quick fade, we see the Dark Knight returns to the mystery of discovering Hush's identity, and his efforts bring him into contact with an old ally who looks to have betrayed Batman, after Hush promised him something that Batman was never able to give him. However, as is the case with most mysteries when this Judas stands ready to reveal the identity of Hush we see he's gunned down, and the issue ends with Batman turning to face Hush, who holds a smoking gun in each hand, and looks more than ready for his final encounter with Batman.

Jeph Loeb's work on this arc reminds me a bit of a little kid with a joy-buzzer. The first time they use it they manage to get you pretty good, and the next few times you're willing to humor them as they seem to be having a grand old time messing about with their new toy. However, eventually there does come a point when one's ability to draw enjoyment from their enjoyment is overshadowed by the simple fact that joy-buzzers are pretty damn annoying. Now I realize that I would probably be the exact same way if I ever got a shot at writing my favorite character, as twelve straight months where Spider-Man battles a member of his rogues gallery in every issue does sound quite appealing. However this rogue of the month pattern doesn't exactly play all that well out in reality, as we see the battles are rather hurried affairs, in which Batman is able to overcome his opponents with relative ease, and the villains aren't really doing anything but acting as someone for Batman to fight. In fact the only member of the Rogues who was allowed to have a plan was Killer Croc in the opening issue, and even this little detail was undone by the simple fact that he came back a couple issues later to take part in his pointless fight with Batman. As for the mysterious Hush, my grievance with this aspect of the plot is what I'm using to fill the next column.

Yes, I have a gripe with the whole mystery of Hush, as this has to be one of the only times when the big master plan of the mysterious villain looks to be simply to look like they have a master plan. I mean when one takes a step back & looks at what the Hush is trying to accomplish it doesn't look all that impressive. Now the Hush mystery does act as a framing device upon which Jeph Loeb can offer up his various encounters, and it's also allowed him to deliver a couple mildly surprising moments. I must also confess that I was somewhat impressed that the guess I made in my review of last month's issue was revealed to be the truth, especially since my knowledge of Batman's corner of the DCU isn't overly expansive. However, the simple truth of the matter is that the Hush's only goal seems to be engaging Batman, and by extension us readers in a guessing game as to who he or she is. As such the only motive that fits seems to be that they are trying to prove they are smarter than Batman. This in turn leads us to the big rule of mysteries in that there are no unnecessary characters, and if one looks back on the story with the question of who would be driven to prove they were smarter than Batman, and the answer becomes fairly obvious. As for how Jeph Loeb is going to bring this character back from the dead, this issue opens with the line "it is not impossible for the dead to come back to life." Plus what better way to remove a likely suspect from the table than to kill them off part ways into the story.

The work of Jim Lee is what has probably given this story its ever so impressive fan base, as while Jeph Loeb is a writer who can draw a pretty decent crowd, Jim Lee's return to a monthly book is what got comic fandom buzzing, and as his run nears its finish I have to say it's great to see he's managed to hold his own in the monthly arena, with no missed shipping dates, or issues that looked like he was cutting corners to meet a deadline. Now speaking as a fan of comic art I have to say that while I find Jim Lee to be a highly capable artist, with a strong design sense, and a clear eye for delivering the story in a dramatically exciting manner, I've never been among his most ardent of fans. I mean his action scenes are solid, but frankly his facial expressions have always been a bit standardized in my eyes, and his panel layouts strike me as not being nearly as daring as they could be. I will agree there's something to be said for clarity, and one can't deny that the big single & double-page spread have visual impact. However, there's only so many times I can look at what is essentially a pinup pose of two characters in a heated battle, before I find myself wanting Jim Lee to display a little more imagination in his presentation of the material. Than again given the writing isn't exactly inspired, it is a little unfair to ask the art to meet, and perhaps even exceed demands that simply are not being asked for by the writing.

Final Word:
This issue acts as a perfect example of why I'm having trouble embracing this arc, as it's getting pretty difficult not to notice how often Jeph Loeb offers up a shocking plot device only to reverse it in the following issue. Now taken by itself there's nothing wrong with this issue, as it does a pretty fair job of addressing the Jason Todd situation. However, when one places this issue alongside the other chapters it quickly becomes apparent that Hush's big master plan exists entirely to allow Jeph Loeb to deliver a string of fan pleasing plot devices, as it's almost like Jeph Loeb is making his way down a check list of situation and events that will get to fans excited. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that this entire arc has an artificial, almost cookie cutter quality to it, and if one has read the "Batman: The Long Halloween" maxiseries, it's also hard not to pretend not to see the similar plot construction. Still, I guess if this is what makes Batman readers happy who am I to complain, as I'm the very definition of a band wagon jumper, when it comes to this book.

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