Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Detective Comics #847 Review

Writer: Paul Dini
Penciller: Dunstin Nguyen

I have to admit, I've never been a fan of Hush. The original storyline was very good, but not really because of the character of Tommy Elliot. The wonderful art of Jim Lee was coupled with many of Batman's rogue gallery being manipulated into attacking him. At the end, Jason Todd's return was hinted at, and we learned that Bruce's oldest friend (whom we only met at the beginning of the story) was, in fact, the person behind the attacks.

However, the story was mainly successful because of its mood and art. The problem with the revelation is that Hush's background story sounded absurd, even for a Batman villain. Hush had, at the age of ten, tried to murder his parents by causing a car accident. However, Thomas Wayne saved his mother's life, condemning Tommy to a life of taking care of his insane mother. In revenge, and this is where the premise starts to lose credibility, Tommy decides to destroy the life of his oldest friend, because Bruce's father was murdered and he can't strike at him directly.

That's quite a grudge. It's also not an especially plausible grudge. Someone with that level of vindictiveness would be running over the children of their tax accountant because he didn't get enough money back on his tax return. How exactly did Tommy Elliot get to the point where the only person he blames for ruining his life is the son of the doctor who saved his mother? Why didn't he, for example, attack the person who called the hospital, or the ambulance driver, or the orderly? The grudge just didn't make any sense, and was the weakest part of that story.

This issue gives us part two of the "Heart of Hush" storyline, which is intended to provide some sort of insight into the character of Hush. I have a feeling the editors at DC know that Hush is something of a problem. They have a character at the heart of one of the best known and loved Batman stories ever told, who in himself isn't very interesting. They had something of the same problem after the Death of Superman story. What should they do with Doomsday, the big rock guy who killed Superman? After all, he's a big rock guy, and therefore by definition boring. The same problem arises here. They are trying to make Hush plausible and interesting, as they intend to make him a major player in the R.I.P. story or at least its after-story, Battle for the Cowl.

How successful is this story, then? So far, it does provide some insight into the character that at least makes him more plausible. That will at least provide the ground for making him more interesting in future issues. Tommy Elliot comes across as a dangerous psychopath. They introduce the possibility that this is the result of his father's physical abuse, which does seem to be common to many psychopaths. He tried to murder his parents, then nearly beats another child to death with an oar for calling him a "Momma's boy". When put into an institution, he primarily schemes in order to be released, and fools Doctor Crane, the future Scarecrow, into letting him go. If it were anyone other than the Scarecrow, this scene would have been implausible, but it is implied later in the story that this meeting will lead to some sort of relationship between the two later.

This story is at least making some sense out of Tommy Elliot, at least in so far as psychopaths make sense. The guy's been very evil for a very long time, and has a grudge against Batman because he has to have a grudge against someone. Now that he's back, he's very dangerous, and while of course I can't relate to the character, his actions can now at least be put into some sort of context.

The rest of the book is largely scene setting for the rest of the Heart of Hush storyline. Batman, Nightwing and Robin take out four very goofy villains and the Batman informs them he is worried about the return of Hush. While this is a little implausible given that Batman was supposedly completely obsessed with the Black Glove for the last forty-nine days, it would at least be sensible to warn one's friends if a dangerous, brilliant psychopath who hates you and who knows your secret identity is back in town. Following this, we have a clever scene between Zatanna and a jealous Catwoman, and Zatanna encourages her to pursue Bruce romantically despite his current love for Jezebel Jet.

Finally, there is a scene with my favorite Batman villain of all, Scarecrow. It is implied that he is working with Hush (at least the orderlies look the same), and appears to be capturing children in order to drive them crazy with fear. Compared to the psychological complexity of Tommy Elliot, there is something refreshing about a villain who is just fear incarnate trying to scare people because that's what he does. It makes me interested in knowing how Hush and Scarecrow are planning together and serves as a very good hook.

All in all, this is a fairly good issue. One of Batman's most troublesome characters is fleshed out to some degree, and there are a lot of interesting plot hooks to keep the reader in the story.

B

2 comments:

Zachary Paul said...

"How exactly did Tommy Elliot get to the point where the only person he blames for ruining his life is the son of the doctor who saved his mother? Why didn't he, for example, attack the person who called the hospital, or the ambulance driver, or the orderly? The grudge just didn't make any sense, and was the weakest part of that story."

Great reviews all around, but I think this part might be a little unfair.

How did Mark Chapman get to the point where he point he blame for all his failure in life at John Lennon?

Such a fixation isn't a totally unrealistic.

Daniel said...

Thanks for your comments. I think your comparison is a good one. Now that we're seeing more of Tommy's motivations, he is starting to sound a bit like Mark Chapman. However, it isn't a rational motive, but a crazy one. It makes sense in as much as it has an explanation, but not in as much as it provides a rational motive.

During the original series, though, Hush in general didn't come across as insane, so when his motive was revealed it didn't make any sense in either way. I like that the "Heart of Hush" is starting to flesh him out in a way that is making sense of the earlier stories.