Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artists: Jim Lee (p), Scott Williams (i)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
The book opens with me wondering how the heck I'm going to discuss this issue without spoiling the big reveal regarding Hush's identity. Basically the opening half of the issue has Batman having it out with Hush who is busy blasting away at the Dark Knight with a pair of handguns, while delivering a villainous rant that not only reveals the true identity of the man behind the identity concealing bandages, but also why this person is bearing such a grudge toward Bruce Wayne. However, this battle is brought to a rather unusual halt when James Gordon, and a character who was suspected to be Hush earlier in the story show up, and the latter pumps a couple of bullets into Hush, which sends the villain tumbling off the bridge into the river below. As Batman dives in after the villain, we see he returns to the surface without having found him, and a comment made by the shooter makes it pretty clear that Hush is not dead. However, being the good little detective that he is we see Batman has managed to put together enough clues to figure out the real mastermind behind the whole scheme that has gotten his rogues gallery acting wildly out of character, and the issue ends with Batman paying a visit to this villain's cell, where he makes it clear that this villain had better think twice before making use of his newly acquired knowledge about Batman's secret identity.
The big mystery stands revealed, and the answer to the question of who is the man behind the bandages is the one I had gone in expecting it to be, which is a little disappointing. I will give Jeph Loeb credit for adding a extra layer beyond the simple reveal though, as we learn one of Batman's enemies was essentially the puppet master, who controlled all the various players, including the ever-mysterious Hush, and this reveal moment is genuinely unexpected. Now out of the Batman villains I have to say that the mystery mastermind has always been one of my favorites, as I remember being genuinely excited whenever the character would show up on the old 1960s Batman series, and in the recent string of Batman movies this character was far and away my favorite portrayal of a Batman villain. However, what really sells me on the character is that frankly he has himself a fun gimmick, and I rather like the idea that this revelation finally gives him the respect that I feel has been long overdue. I also rather enjoyed the way that Batman essentially uses the character's own gimmick against him to preserve his secret identity, though the simple fact that this character knows the secret is enough to make any future encounters these two have more interesting. It is starting to get a bit crowded when it comes to the villains that know Bruce Wayne is Batman though.
I have to say I'm not fully sold on the explanation given for why Hush would hold such a hatred toward Bruce Wayne. I mean I'm not sure why a murderer would hold a burning hatred toward the doctor who managed to save the life of one of their intended victims, and the fact that he would then transfer this hatred to the son of the doctor that saved the life of one of his intended murder victims only serves to further dilute the waters. I mean this is a bit like hating the garbage man for taking away the garbage when it was your wife that accidentally threw the winning lottery ticket in the trash can. Now I realize Jeph Loeb was trying to put a different spin on the expected motive, as one expects the person to hate the doctor for not being able to save the life of their beloved parents, so offering up the reverse certainly earns marks for originality. However, I simply can't make the leap that Jeph Loeb is asking the readers to make, and as such the big confrontation in this issue felt a bit manufactured in my eyes. Than again perhaps it's asking too much that the motives of a cold-blooded killer actually make sense. I will give this issue credit for tying up all its loose ends though, as I don't think there's a single detail that this issue leaves dangling, as it even has the decency to revert Killer Croc back to his original look, as well as list off each of the reasons for why all the various villains took part in this plan.
I have to make a small complaint about the cover art for this issue, as I went and bought the all villains cover, and as I was admiring the art I couldn't help but notice the villain who was shown whispering in Hush's ear so to speak, and this in turn gave the big reveal of who the mastermind villain was a little less impact. However, it's still a lovely piece of art, and out of the three covers that I took a look at it's certainly the most visually engaging, as each of the villains is allowed to hold a different reaction to Batman's defeat, and that's one wonderful looking shot of the Joker. As for the interior art, there are some visuals that look a bit familiar, as the credit page shot of Batman's big kick looks a bit familiar to the cover to the first issue, and the shot on the second to last page of the issue, the anticipation before Batman & Catwoman kiss looks also virtually identical to the scene from the midpoint of this arc, though perhaps this was intentional so that the different ending would carry more impact. Whatever the case may be, I don't like it when I get the sense that an artist is simply duplicating a previous shot, as it shows a lack of imagination. Than again that are some fairly memorable visuals in this issue, with the reveal shot of the true mastermind villain being a wonderful shot of this character looking incredibly smug, and self satisfied. The last page shot of Batman was also quite impressive, as it makes great use of its heavy shadows.
After a year of building toward this moment, Jeph Loeb engages in what is essentially an information dump, as all the answers to the questions come spilling out in this final chapter, and while there are some very clever ideas at work here, and I truly enjoyed the big reveal of the true mastermind behind this arc, the simple fact of the matter is that Jeph Loeb got too caught up in keeping the readers off balance, that he spends most of the issue untangling the overly complex mystery. It also doesn't help that some of the information that is offered up is rather weak as the reasoning for why Hush holds such a mad on toward Bruce Wayne is downright goofy, and the scene where it's explained why each member of the rogues gallery took part in this plot almost reads like the two characters are reading off a laundry list. Still, when one takes a step back I will concede that this issue does tie up all of the loose ends, and the final exchange between Batman and the real villain of the arc is very enjoyable. Opening the issue by lifting one of the most memorable lines from the film Unforgiven got the issue off on the wrong foot though.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!