I wasn’t too impressed with the character of Hush – the only reason I read the two trades collecting the story of Bruce Wayne’s long-lost childhood friend Tommy Elliot we’ve never heard of before who has returned with a grudge against Bruce, as created and written by Jeph Loeb, was because Jim Lee was drawing it. So I surprised myself by picking this up, seeing as it’s a continuation of the idiotic character. But there were two good reasons: Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen.
Dini is a good writer of Batman, but he’s always been interested in the supporting cast as well, particularly the women of Gotham. The strength of this story is the focusing on Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, and her special connection with Bruce Wayne and Batman. There is a lot of backstory about Tommy and Bruce as kids, which I have to admit is done very skilfully by Dini, but it feels like padding for the more interesting stuff in the present day and the interaction between Bruce and Selina. Tommy is after Bruce, again, and his plan involves putting Selina in a bad situation to hold Bruce hostage, but obviously the good guys win the day. There are some lovely bits in it, such as Batman breaking into Arkham to question the Scarecrow in an intense fashion while he is being watched by the Joker, who is enthralled watching him (‘Outstanding. Better than Christmas. Swear to God.’), and I loved the coda to the story with Bruce and Selina (and Selina’s revenge on Hush). But I still don’t care for Hush, and I was rather miffed that he now knows about the location of the Batcave, but I’m sure I’ll live.
The other great aspect of the book is the art. Nguyen is a lovely visual stylist, a great designer of pages and panels, and a dynamic artist – he’s perfect for Batman for the action but also the unusual design element of the rogues gallery. So not only does he draw a good Bruce and Batman, but also Selina and Catwoman and Zatanna and Joker and all the rest, and every page looks great. Derek Fridolfs inks his work and brings out that delicate sharpness to Nguyen’s line work, making it look even more beautiful. The covers are even more gorgeous, combining Nguyen’s sense of dramatic design and exquisite penmanship, and the whole visual package makes reading the story a delight even when you don’t particularly care what is going on (i.e. all the Hush stuff). I look forward to reading Batman stories by these two creators when they’re working on something of more substance.