Monday, May 5, 2003

Batman #614 - A Review

Written by: Jeph Loeb
Penciled by: Jim Lee
Inked by: Scott Williams
Colored by: Alex Sinclair
Lettered by: Richard Starkings
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Batman verses the Joker, mano-a-mano in a good old fashioned “smackdown ‘da clown” fight. Been there. Done that. Bought the T-shirt. Right? Perhaps. But at no time in recent memory has the classic battle between good and chaos been portrayed with such vivid imagery, nor such skillfully crafted words.

Much has been written about how Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee have revitalized this book and a character who has suffered more poorly-conceived mini-series and gimmick-driven crossovers in the last decade than any other superhero. And they have done this through the remarkably simple means of giving the fans what they want: Beautiful artwork and good writing that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree in Batology to understand what is going on along and exposition that doesn’t read like it came out of a history textbook.

That’s the first thing I noticed in this story. The exposition flows forth in the action, as Batman remembers all the pain The Joker has caused him and his friends during the fight. At these moments, Lee’s art echoes that of scenes from famous Batman stories of the past, capturing the same scenes but in Lee’s distinctive style. This gives those unfamiliar with the exact instances of Bat-history a chance to understand just WHY Batman pushes himself so much harder when he is facing The Joker. The plot thus far is also explained quickly and simply, with Batman looking at the now dead body of the friend who saved his life… and the Joker standing over him with a gun.

Those who have been following the story of Hush thus far may wish to know that the identity of the mysterious “Hush” who has been orchestrating a number of attacks on Batman is revealed in this issue. But I’ll keep quiet as to whom they are here… no pun intended. I will say that Loeb’s tendency for foreshadowing as well as Lee’s gift for visual references and tributes to classic Batman stories should give the sharp-eyed all the evidence they need to play detective, even before the final page is unmasked.

Even without the mystery, Batman is a worthy addition to your collection. And those of you late in joining us might wish to look for the new Batman: Hush Hard Cover Trade Paperback, also released this week. The $25 dollar price tag may leave you screaming at first but the quality of the story inside (along with some new pages of original Jim Lee art) will leave you stunned silent.

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