Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Hush
In the dark mirror reflection of our own reality that is the Dark Multiverse, the events of "Hush" are recast anew!
What twisted fate does the Dark Multiverse have in store for young Bruce Wayne, raised by Tommy Elliot's family instead of Alfred...?
“Hush” is one of the most popular Batman stories of the past twenty years, and with good reason. Writer Jeph Loeb and some artist guy named Jim Lee crafted a deft, multilayered mystery centered around Bruce Wayne’s childhood friendship with one Tommy Elliot, and what happens when Elliot re-enters Bruce’s life as an adult. The tale that unfolds is one of jealousy and madness and bad guys wrapped in bandages.
As is the remit of DC’s Tales of the Dark Multiverse one-shots, this “Hush” is not that.
Oh sure, there’s a fair bit of madness, but the world that unfolds courtesy writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson (The Last God) and artist Dexter Soy (Batman and the Outsiders) is quite a bit different indeed. Gotham is sharply divided between the haves and have-nots, an independent city-state (why this is is never explained), and both the Court of Owls and League of Assassins have vested interests in it behind the scenes. There’s also a vigilante group known as the Outsiders that seeks to rise up against the corrupt bourgeoisie that’s lead by Barbara Gordon and features Gotham alum Cassandra Cain, Tim Drake, and Jason Todd. There’s near-nonstop war on the streets, fomented by a desire to rise up against the elite, shrewdly encapsulated by vacuous Entertainment Tonight-style media coverage.
And in the middle of it all is Tommy Elliot, heir to Wayne Enterprises, while Bruce Wayne lies moldering in Arkham Asylum, never able to move past the death of his parents.
I don’t want to say too much more for fear of spoiling major plot points, but suffice to say, this one-shot is a wild divergence from the events of the original “Hush,” to the point that it’s really only tangentially connected by virtue of featuring Elliot and someone running around with bandages on their face. Fans of the original “Hush” may be a bit disappointed by that, and it’s fair to say that taking such a wide divergence may be something of a mislead in terms of setting reader expectations. Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Hush isn’t necessarily a bad comic in that readers will feel like they wasted their time and money on it, but it does feel like an agglomeration of random ideas that don’t necessarily connect. There’s name-checking galore – Lincoln March, the Court of Owls, Santa Prisca, Talia al Ghul, et cetera. There are enemies rotting in cages in the Batcave. There’s dead Waynes and dead Elliots. But very little to connect them to a stronger narrative.
The idea that a severely damaged Bruce Wayne would become a more dangerous version of Batman makes sense, but the fact that he wraps his face in bandages to do so really doesn’t make any sense other than to create a visual connection to the original “Hush.” (Come to think of it, Tommy Elliot doing it didn’t make sense in the original “Hush,” but I digress.) Beyond that, and Elliot being the ostensible lead character, and that’s pretty much where any connective tissue between the two versions of “Hush” ends – despite a blue-washed flashback scene reminiscent of Jim Lee’s use of the same in the original story. Dexter Soy does a fun job with the script he’s given, though, going gonzo with some of the character designs and building some fun action set pieces. He’s boosted by coloring by Ivan Plascencia, who for my money is easily one of the best colorists working today. But given Soy’s propensity toward a somewhat cartoonier style of art, I can’t help but feel that he may have been mismatched with this story. As it is, despite Soy’s best intentions (and honestly good work – don’t get it twisted), I can’t help but feel that an artist with a darker edge might have been a better fit for Kennedy’s revision of “Hush’s” world.
All told, I feel like Johnson may have been pressured to throw everything plus a half-dozen kitchen sinks into this story. It would have worked so much better without the multiple subplots that do more to detract from what I feel the main narrative should be – that is, the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Tommy Elliot. That’s what the heart of “Hush” was; by not zeroing in on that here, an opportunity to explore that relationship in a new light has been missed.
As has been the case with DC's Tales from the Dark Multiverse one-shots, Hush is a mixed bag. There's a good story in there, but it's hampered by diverging so wildly from its original source material and too many ideas being thrown on-page at once to truly connect in a cohesive narrative. Dexter Soy's art is good, but mismatched with the tone writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson is going for.
Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Hush #1: “Everyone’s Dead But Us”
Writing - 7/107/10
Storyline - 5/105/10
Art - 6.5/106.5/10
Color - 7/107/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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