Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artists: Jim Lee (p), Scott Williams (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Hereís a riddle: ďWhen is a mystery not a mystery?Ē
Answer: When itís written by Jeph Loeb.
Why do I say this? As I said in my review of the previous issue, the point of a mystery is to drop enough clues to confuse your reader while at the same time giving them enough information to solve the puzzle. Loeb threw a ton of stuff at his readers, but none of it put readers in the position to come to any meaningful conclusion and therefore served to do nothing but confuse. There was way too much going on throughout this storyline, and I donít feel any of it pointed to the people behind Batmanís misery.
In this concluding chapter to ďHush,Ē Loeb finally fills us in as to whatís been going on. Unfortunately, very little of it made sense to me and I felt like the whole thing was a bit of a cop out. Thereís way too much talking, way too little action, and too much of the issue felt like an epilogue and not a conclusion (and yes, there is a difference). Iím going to go into detail as to why I feel this way later, so consider this you spoiler warning.
The idea that a ďlong lostĒ friend of Bruce Wayne can come back into his life and immediately establish himself as a formidable foe is so bad itís laughable. I have no problem with the creation of new villains, but the convenience of dredging up an old friend and pitting him against the Dark Knight is just plain lazy storytelling. I know Loeb used every Bat-villain in the book and Iíve hammered him for it but I would rather have seen someone else, someone I recognized, under Hushís bandages (and I know we technically donít see whoís there, but weíre told more than once who it is).
After the too-brief confrontation, readers get to check in on most of the other characters used in this story before learning which classic villain was behind it all, and I didnít much care for those pages. The meeting of Catwoman and Huntress was awkward and unnecessary, and the inclusion of Harvey Dent in the previously mentioned final fight 1) didnít make much sense, and 2) was way too convenient. Once again, it feels like Loeb ran out of steam a long time ago and took the easy way out too often. The interaction between Superman and Batman was quite good, but Iíve long maintained that Loeb knows how to write those characters better than most.
After all that, we finally get to the man behind it all, and itís here that the issue really shines. Batmanís conversation with the Riddler contains some truly great moments, but it the fact that this scene had to happen is narratively weak. The scene reads too much like the ďvillain reveals his planĒ scenes from older James Bond movies, and considering how much fun people (like Mike Myers) have made of that convention Iím surprised that people still use it. The sad thing is that, without this part of the book, the previous 11 issues wouldnít make much sense. Sure, I liked the way Batman turned the tables on the Riddlerís new knowledge, but it was imbedded in a trope of dramatic fiction that is too trite to be effective.
The reason this book gets two bullets once again rests squarely on Jim Leeís shoulders (or drawing hand, as it were). This issue looks fantastic (even though I hate the fact that there were three covers) and Iíll be sad to see Lee leave. I canít think of a page or even a panel from his run that I didnít like, and that speaks volumes about the consistent level of quality Lee produced every month. Iíve immensely thankful heíll be drawing a Superman book soon, but I thought the darker tone of Batman meshed incredibly well with Leeís style. I canít say enough good things about the art, so Iíll just say Iím glad Jim Lee is backing drawing comics again and leave it at that.
This issue marked the disappointing end to a disappointing story line. Iím not sure if Iíll be back for Loeb and Leeís second run on the title, but I will say the odds arenít too good. It seems like Loeb got in over his head with this arc and could never quite regain control of his creation. Hereís hoping this is the exception to the rule when it comes to Loebís work.
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