I was going to wait on this one. Will told me that some kind of DC comics special was coming up and that a column about Hush would be good then. I slept on it and woke up with a terrific idea for a constructive chirpy sort of column, relevant to comics, life and the wider world. My son woke up five minutes later and I completely forgot the good idea. It will come to me one day.
I wish I could forget Hush so easily. Its slimy covers still reproach me when I look for a new book to read in my study. I could sell it, but the scars would linger-
Wait a minute, I hear you cry. What is Hush and why is the man so down on it?
Well the easy question first. Hush is a story involving Batman and just about everyone else on earth. It is published in two thin paperbacks. It is written by a bloke called Jeph Loeb, pencilled by Jim Lee and inked by someone else. As for why I’m down on it, I blame Alan Moore.
This may seem rough, blaming a genius writer whose work brings happiness to millions, who has revitalized the art of telling a story through a comic and who isn’t to blame for the crummy films made from his comics. It may seem especially rough blaming him for Hush which epitomizes a lot of Moore`s criticisms of conventional comics writing. But he gave me the confidence to buy the damned thing.
I had discovered a new comics shop. In Tokyo, finding somewhere to buy English language comics (or `Amecomi` aka American Comics) is a big deal. There are only two Amecomci shops I know of. One involves a tramp up a four story staircase with manga porn on the walls, only to run the risk of being crushed beneath tottering piles of Spiderman toys or asphyxiated by dust from same. The other has floor space and a separate floor for the toys. It sells a lot of English language comics in good condition. There’s no dust. They don’t care if you read all of “the essential Spiderman” without buying it. It’s a great place to spend a bit of time and after a lot of loitering, I finally bought Moore`s “Watchmen”. Watchmen was brilliant (it’s one of the most respected comics ever, so I have to say that. But it’s true). So I went back and bought Tom Strong. This was also genius, something I want to re-read.
And there was Hush, prominently displayed, on sale in English and Japanese editions. Clearly this was Hot Stuff. I could do no wrong with this new hobby. So I bought the bloody thing. You know, I wondered about the wisdom of devoting an entire column to rubbishing Hush, but it’s so bad that there are about five columns in it. A brief run down.
1) The artist and writer’s introductions would be embarrassing in their pretension and smugness even if Hush was a work of genius. As it is, they make Donald Trump seem humble. Compared to these guys, Mussolini was St Francis of Assisi. However, lots of good comics have pretentious introductions (Preacher is a notable offender) and we don’t buy the comic based on the introduction. Moving right along….
2) The story just meanders around the place, collecting clutter. I think this is meant to be like an all-star cast movie. There`s the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin, Catwoman, some bird called the Huntress, two or three Robins, an Arabic super criminal called Ras Al-gul, his evil large-breasted daughter, Superman, kitchen sink man, Kylie Minogue, Scarecrow, the Partridge family. Okay, I was lying about the Partridge
Family, but you get my point.
All star cast movies were always rubbish when I was a kid and the fashion for them didn’t last (with the exception of Ocean’s 11 and 12), possibly because of the cost or possibly because it’s only charming seeing Robert Redford and John Wayne and Sean Connery in a movie if they have something to do. If twenty-six stars are sharing the screen time they can`t have much more to do than say “Hi, I’m John Wayne”. I know the Bond movies have been going downhill for a while, but if the brains behind Hush were in charge, Bond would be up against SMERSH, SPECTRE, Oddjob, Jaws, Rupert Murdoch and that little fella from Trainspotting.
3) The main relationship in the story is risible. I know comics are always sketchy, but in good stories it works. Peter Parker stares longingly at the cutest girl in school, wishes he could be strong and successful, watches her drive away with the cool guys. It takes about three panels but it’s believable. Batman, on the other hand, chases Catwoman a bit, does a bit of posing whilst talking to her (Lee does a lot of dialogue positions that look as if the characters are doing a FMH photo-shoot whilst chatting) and kisses her. It’s ridiculous and made more so by the way they all talk about the ‘relationship’ for the rest of the book.
Batman reflects in one of many dialogue boxes ‘my relationship with Catwoman is….complicated’. Nice try, but the three dots don’t make it profound. The ‘relationship’ is not complicated, it’s non-existent. This doesn’t stop all the characters chatting about it as if Catwoman and Batman have been living together in a flat in Greenwich Village for three years. It just doesn’t work.
4) The introduction makes much of the fact that the creators kept the secret of Hush from Batman fans for a long time. Well may they be proud. They’ve even gone so far as to remove the secret from my head after I finished the story. I can’t remember if Hush is really Robin number eight, Robin number 5, Batman’s childhood friend who has a dark secret or Alfred the butler. I’m pretty sure it’s not Bob the Builder but you never know.
There’s a twist too far. In the introduction, Jim Lee says that Scott Williams, the inker would say “dude. Let’s get it right. I can stay up longer”. The script reads as if Jeph Loeb stayed up way too late making the denouement that little bit more complex. He could
have done with a bit more “Dude, stick a fork in it, it’s done”.
Hush is satisfying to me only inasmuch as it supports my prejudices about most comics. They are far too cluttered with super people and they are a form of porn. The super-ising of everything was funny in Hitman, where Ennis sent it up with his lampooning of Green Lantern (“well obviously I don’t carry money in this suit”) and his silly made-up superheroes. In Hush we get a feeling for what it’s like to live inside the “everyone important needs tights” mentality. The example that sticks in my mind is Oracle.
As the tale begins Batman talks with someone or something called Oracle, who mysteriously gets his Batcar going by remote control. I assumed that Oracle was a reasonably interesting futuristic computer. Oracle turns out to be Barbara Gordon, who was once Batgirl, in a chair at a computer. She was shot and paralyzed by the Joker in an Alan Moore story (there, it is his fault). I’ve been told by people who read Batman regularly that Oracle’s an important character. Fair enough, but I’m in a chair at a computer now and I don’t force my wife and kid to call me TYPE or PROCRASTINATOR. That Barbara can’t help Batman out this way without being given a silly name shows how entrenched the super-hero mindset is. The overabundance of characters in Hush shows that recycling is good with office paper but tedious in the world of comics.
Oh well, I’m off to re-read Tom Strong and try to sell Hush on eBay. You have been warned.