During the early 2000s, Jeph Loeb – writer of the acclaimed Batman comics storyline The Long Halloween and its numerous sequels – made a splash along with artist Jim Lee as the dynamic duo made Hush. As part of the main Batman title, this twelve-issue arc was an instant hit in its sales as it gained a new readership for anyone wanting to jump into the comic book adventures of the Dark Knight. However, as a lifelong Batman fan with a great deal of knowledge towards the comics, I found Hush to be overrated despite featuring unforgettable moments as well as the seeds for future instalments that brought out the best from the Bat.
Considering the book’s popularity, Hush was bound to get adapted and it has become the 13th instalment of the DC Animated Movie Universe. The story follows Bruce Wayne/Batman (voiced again by Jason O’Mara) investigating a recent crime epidemic involving a large number of the Bat’s rogues gallery. They are now pawns of the mysterious new villain called “Hush”, who is planning an elaborate game to take down Gotham’s hero once and for all. Meanwhile, romance is in the air as Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Jennifer Morrison) pairs up with Batman during his investigation without realizing what his true identity is.
The biggest issue with the source material was its uneven narrative that was strung together by set-pieces that clearly evoke aspects of Batman’s history, lacking in originality. Loeb approached this as a gateway for new readers, without doing anything fresh and interesting for everyone else. Hush feels more like a guest list than a story that exists just to allow Jim Lee to show off his artistic talent. This fault from the book is translated very well into the animated film. The amount of characters being thrown into the mix – whether it is some of the iconic villains used for admittedly well-choreographed action set-pieces or members of the Bat-Family – most have their moment to say some stuff and then disappear.
Given the short running time you’d expect from these direct-to-video animations, you have to condense the narrative if you are adapting a known comics storyline. The Hush story pulls readers various directions. It never really finds a clear through line in what the story is trying to say. This adaptation written by Ernie Altbacker streamlines it and finds the emotional centre that is the Bat/Cat romance.
Following last year’s The Death of Superman that delves greatly into the relationship of Lois and Clark (Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O’Connell get to reprise their roles here), the love story angle works well with the DC heroes. The relationship between Bruce and Selina is beautiful and sexy, with O’Mara and Morrison showing off their seductive vocals. There is also still that lingering question of whether or not Batman can ever be truly happy, as well as keeping true to his code of justice that is explored during the explosive climax.
The animation has its limitations, most notably in its stills that fail to recreate those stylish comic book poses. Still, there is a fluidity in the action scenes that adapt some of the best moments from the source material, from a Batman v Superman fight that is better than the film Batman v Superman, to a violent brawl with the Joker. That said, the latter sequence loses some of the emotional momentum in regards to a supporting character who is frankly a nothing role here, due for a change from comic to screen.