05th Nov2020

‘Tales From the Dark Multiverse: Batman Hush #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson | Art by Dexter Soy | Published by DC Comics

I’ve been dipping into these Dark Multiverse books and crossovers for a while now, and as you would expect they have been of mixed quality. Generally, though, they’ve hit more home runs than strikes. The positive thing is that as they are essentially glorified ‘What If?’ books, and the possibilities are endless. Any creator can take a major storyline from the past in the DC Universe that they enjoyed, or more likely have an editor assign it to them, and run with it in a different direction. Heck, I could write those. This time round, Phillip Kennedy Johnson gets that job, with co-conspirator Dexter Soy having fun on the art. Let’s take a look.

So, first things first, this is a dark take on the Hush storyline that ran back in the Batman books nearly twenty years ago now. Originally by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee and Scott Williams, this was pretty dark at the time anyway, and has become a major part of the Batman back story. It told the story of Bruce’s childhood friend Tommy Elliott who, due to a childhood hatred of the Wayne family he kept secret from Bruce, came back in later years to secretly lead a coalition of Bat villains against Batman. He lost, ultimately, but left a lot of psychological scars first. Johnson takes as his starting point, with this new take, the Crime Alley murder. This time, on this Earth, both the Wayne’s and the Elliott’s are in the alley when the Wayne’s are shot, and Bruce is taken in as a boy by Tommy’s family. Things are different from the start it seems.

Move to the present day, and we are at a party in the independent city-state of Gotham. Thomas Elliott is now a Senator and CEO of Wayne Industries, romantically involved with Talia, daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul, and seemingly secretly a member of the League of Assassins. Jason Todd is a defence contractor, and Oswald Cobblepot is a leading philanthropist. Guess we’re not in Kansas anymore. If that really is Bruce Wayne lying dead on that slab in Arkham Asylum, this is definitely not Kansas anymore. Seems Elliott had allowed a comatose Bruce to be kept alive and experimented on by Dr. Crane, with his fear gas experiments, but now he’s dead. Or is he? It seems Arkham has a Devil, and he’s very angry. He also wears a mash up of Batman and Hush’s costume from our world. I’m thinking reports of Wayne’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

As Thomas Elliott’s helicopter takes off, Arkham’s Devil attacks it, causing it to crash into Gotham, where it is met by Gotham’s own super team, the Outsiders. Led by Barbara Gordon, who reveals Jim Gordon is dead, the team try to get Elliott but are stopped by Gray Son, a ‘through the mirror darkly’ version of Richard Grayson who seems to work for the President. He reveals Harvey Dent and Flass are also missing. Elliott and Gray Son suspect that Jason Todd is involved in the attack, and it soon turns out he is but he’s no hero. He’s thrown in with the League of Assassins, who have turned on Elliott. It’s cross and double cross time it seems. Oh, and here comes Arkham’s Devil, who wants to fight everyone it seems. Something’s hitting the fan.

Elliott is getting increasingly spooked as he makes it home, only to find a ‘The Mark of Zorro’ magazine. Talia denies helping Todd to try and eliminate him, and is clearly losing patience with Elliott. He goes looking for answers at a now derelict Wayne Manor where he finds Gray Son, also investigating. It seems things have come to a head. Gray Son’s Court of Owls are looking to take out Talia and the League once and for all. Loving all this intrigue, it’s like a political thriller. Arkham’s Devil of course is also there, and drags Gray Son and Elliott down to the Batcave (DevilCave?) where there are others in cages, and a semi-crazy Alfred Pennyworth. It seems the Devil’s in the mood for some exposition, and he reveals what we suspected. Elliott was responsible for the deaths of both his parents and Wayne’s, and then for the death of the assassin who did it for him.

But without the many years of training, how did Bruce Wayne become Arkham’s Devil? With a lot of help. Jack Napier helped spring him from Arkham, Amadeus Arkham taught him criminal psychology, and many other inmates taught him the qualities he needed. Hey, even bad guys have major skills. Bruce is back to take his Gotham back, but this Batman The Silenced is a lot darker, more violent, and more revenge driven than our Bruce Wayne ever was. Still, Gotham can’t get any worse.

Could it?

Put this one in the ‘win’ column, as I really enjoyed it. Johnson takes the inspiration from that original Hush story, but most of this is his take on characters, and a good one too. Like a Mirror Universe Batman story, characters we recognise, but also characters that all have those metaphorical goatees. It’s not a book that’ll change your life, but it’s fun stuff. Dexter Soy’s art is excellent throughout, punchy layouts that deliver action and motion throughout, and gives it a slight Jim Lee style flavour while being very much his own work.

This is pure popcorn comics. Nothing too deep or Earth-changing, but great fun and you enjoy it while you read it. Come visit Wayne’s World, Dark Multiverse style.

**** 4/5


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