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Absolute Batman: Hush (Review/Retrospective)

Hush is a divisive story arc. It seems that you either love it or you hate it, there seems to be no middle ground to speak of. Depending on where you stand it’s either a compelling exploration of Batman’s insecurities featuring a worthy new opponent for his rogues’ gallery, or it’s a hackneyed and poorly-conceived mystery which relies on an overly convoluted resolution. Honestly, I can see both sides of the argument. While I won’t argue that it’s a prestigious masterpiece in the mold of Year One or The Long Halloween, I must confess that I quite enjoyed it. Teaming up veteran Batman writer Jeph Loeb with superstar artist Jim Lee, this is very much a Batman blockbuster. It’s epic in scale, spanning most of the DC universe, with more than a few interesting (if jumbled) ideas thrown into the mix.

… Don’t say a word…

Those who focus on the mystery element of the plot are missing the point. Yes, it’s easy to figure out who this new villain, “Hush”, actually is. At least in the literal sense of figuring out who it is underneath the bandages. There is only one person within the structure of the plot who could be Hush, once the audience knows that it can’t be an existing foe masquerading as a new one. However, Hush isn’t about the mystery. That’s that’s a smokescreen and a distraction, a plot-within-a-plot. Explaining the origin of the bandaged fiend, the Riddler tells Batman, “It started as a joke. You know, we had to keep it a secret.”

It feels almost like a clumsier forebearer to Grant Morrison’s Batman R.I.P. The Scottish writer mocked the apophenia that Batman and his fans share – populating his narrative with red herrings and clues that led around in circles. As much as the Riddler might have constructed Hush (the man in the generic trench coat with the bandages) to mock Batman’s need to piece everything together, it feels like something just a teeny tiny bit “meta.” Not only does the sinister bloke with the ominous Aristotle quotations distract Batman from the real mystery, he’s also a convenient construct which allows Jim Lee a pretense to illustrate any number of iconic Batman villains and Jeph Loeb an opportunity to advance Bruce’s character arc.

Night of the bat…

The new villain isn’t even the real threat behind the sinister plot at work here. The final confrontation here isn’t between Batman and the villain wearing bandages over his face, after all. The character of Hush is just something for Batman and the audience to focus on, while the writer and artist take a somewhat epic (at least in scale) trip through Batman’s iconic world. The mystery surrounding this new Hush is just a plot device. I think that you can tell whether or not you’ll enjoy Hush based on that simple fact – does it matter that the central mystery isn’t actually that central? If it does bother you deeply, this isn’t the story for you. After all, Loeb’s other big Batman story – The Long Halloween – doesn’t really hold together as a mystery at all.

Hush is all about identity. That’s the core of the story. Who is Batman? The answer isn’t necessarily Bruce Wayne. There’s a reason that Loeb dwells on Bruce’s identity – having so many people in on the joke, so to speak. Those who complain that too many people know Batman’s secret identity are the same people who applaud The Dark Knight‘s decision to point out how difficult a secret that would be to keep. In many ways, Loeb is way ahead of the curve. Brian Michael Bendis would explore that idea more thoroughly during his superlative Daredevil run, but Loeb also broaches it here.

A wet and dark knight…

Interestingly enough, Loeb consciously puts a bit of distance between Bruce and Batman throughout Hush. The first time Batman refers to his civilian identity, he uses the third person, rather than the first. “But, as Bruce Wayne will attest,” he observes, “you have to spend money to make money.” He continues to have Batman refer to his other persona in the third person throughout the storyline, suggesting that there’s a fundamental dichotomy between Bruce and Batman.

Hush focuses on who or what people are, and how they can change. Batman’s core strength is his intellect – his ability to understand and predict his opponents. However, Hush explores where that leaves Batman several years into his career. After all, it’s hardly exciting to see Batman foil the same villains over and over again using information he gleaned about them decades ago. As Bruce reflects on the Riddler, “Where once his obsessive need to leave riddles as clues would confound me… everything about him has become routine.”

Riddle me this…

Batman finds himself so settled in his traditional patterns that he’s utterly unprepared for his adversaries to suddenly change their tactics and motivations. As Harley robs an opera, Bruce suggests, “Once again, my enemies overstep their customary boundaries.” Loeb suggests that Batman’s familiarity with his villains gives him a strategic advantage. As Harley remarks, “Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Mister B. You really only know how to stick to the script, huh?”

If you remove that advantage, you place Batman off-balance. Flashing back to his childhood, Thomas Elliot taunts, “As long as you can’t think like me, you’ll never beat me.” By changing the methodology of Batman’s iconic selection of foes, Hush puts the Caped Crusader in a decidedly uncomfortable position. Hush changes what Batman knows about his enemies, and so radically distorts his frame of reference, throwing him off his game.

They’re trained for this…

There are other aspects of the arc that play with this theme of identity. Bruce even suggests that the Riddler would be better suited to give up being a costume criminal. “I half-expected him to have retired by now,” Bruce muses. Loeb and Lee pepper the story with images of various characters “out of their comfort zones.”Two-Face is restored to Harvey Dent. We get a short, fairly irrelevant scene featuring Lex Luthor in the White House. Is Lex Luthor still the same Lex Luthor we know if he’s President of the United States? Is Batman still Batman if he falls in love?

Batman spends a good portion of the first issue describing how he isn’t Superman and could never be Superman. “Clark could smile,” Bruce observes, trying to put a young boy at ease. “That Boy Scout thing. And then say something homespun to put the boy at ease. But, the boy doesn’t have Clark. He has me.” Yet, despite going to pains to make that distinction, the plot forces Bruce out of Gotham relatively early on – literally forcing him out of his own comfort zone.

Broken bird…

Gotham is a city so much a part of his identity that in some ways it is him. “This is my city,” Batman warns a police officer in the opening chapter. Visiting Metropolis, it’s immediately clear how far out of his element Bruce is in this strange land. “There are not many reasons for Batman to be in this city,” Bruce muses. He’s talking about what might happen if he’s seen, but it’s also a statement of principle. Bruce in Metropolis is out of his element. As Selina ponders, “Does it ever get dark in this city?”

Sometimes we change because of the effect other people have on us, without even realising – like Bruce is manipulated by the “electronic relay” hidden in the Batcave. Sometimes we change because we subconsciously realise that we need to change. How do know for sure why we are changing? How can we be sure it’s our own independent decision to take those big steps and that we aren’t being manipulated into taking them? It’s about trust, which is always something Batman has had in short supply.

Steeling himself…

Early on, Bruce is almost killed when his wire is snapped. He only survives because of his intricate support network. “I barely survived the fall,” he thinks. “Had it not been for Tommy. Had it not been for Alfred. Had it not been for Huntress. Had it not been for Oracle.” And yet, despite that dependency, Bruce remains isolated and withdrawn. “I’m sure when he can,” Oracle tries to convince Huntress, “he’ll want to thank you himself.” Huntress is apparently less than sure that Bruce will bring himself to thank her for saving his life. She sarcastically responds, “This is me holding my breath.”

That’s the irony about Batman, evident throughout Hush. Reflecting on the crowd attending Thomas Elliot’s funeral, Bruce observes, “I seem to have more family than I seem to have…” Catwoman tells him twice, “You know, for a loner, you certainly have yourself a lot of strings.”For a man who seems to value his independence and isolation, Bruce surrounds himself with friends and allies – perhaps expressing some primal desire for companionship that he wouldn’t dare articulate.

Pride comes before…

That’s the thing about Batman – he is inherently distrusting. This is in contrast with other heroes, like Superman. As Clark prepares to investigate Batman’s visit to Metropolis, Lois warns him, “And remember, despite how he behaves when he’s… y’know — that you two are friends.” It would seem that Batman doesn’t think quite the same way. He assures Catwoman, “You don’t come to Metropolis and not be prepared for him.” Even for his closest allies and friends, trust is a commodity very rarely shared.

This is, of course, largely in keeping with the portrayal of Bruce Wayne at the time. During the nineties and into the early part of the naughties, Batman had been portrayed as increasingly obsessive and cynical. Tower of Babel revealed, for example, that Bruce had plans in place to take down any of his allies if necessary. Identity Crisis would retroactively attempt to explain Batman’s decision to distance himself from his fellow heroes, but Batman’s isolation was an increasingly significant part of his character, and I think Hush actually explores it relatively well.

The last laugh?

As an aside, it’s interesting how Loeb seems to root Bruce’s issues in his father. As in a lot of Batman stories, Martha Wayne is reduced to a fairly insignificant role, but we do get considerable focus on Bruce’s youth. Loeb uses these scenes as a pretense to retroactively insert Thomas Elliot into Bruce’s life, but even Loeb himself seems to concede that this sudden life-long friend is a bit convenient. As Tim asks Dick during the funeral, “Dick… you ever here Bruce talk about this guy before?” It’s as if Loeb is acknowledging the transparency of Thomas Elliot’s role in the story. Of course it’s the new guy.

However, Elliot does allow Loeb the opportunity to dig into Bruce’s past. And it’s interesting how Loeb presents Bruce’s family dynamic. While most writers portray the Waynes as a deeply loving family, as if to increase the inevitable tragedy of Bruce’s loss, Loeb instead suggests that things weren’t quite as perfect as we might like to imagine. Thomas Wayne, who shares the same first name as the eponymous villain, seems like a bit of disconnected father.

Everything burns…

We get to see Doctor Wayne take young Bruce and Elliot to Metropolis. “My father had a medical conference,” Bruce explains. “My mother thought we’d spend some time together.” Martha seems to overestimate her husband’s enthusiasm. He promptly dumps them on the street while he signs into his medical conference. Later, after they inevitably wander off, he locks them in a hotel room. He hardly seems like father of the year.

More than that, Loeb present Thomas Wayne as a somewhat stoic and stern figure. When Thomas Elliot calls him “Doc”, Bruce observes, “Tommy spoke to my father in a way that no one else dared.” Later on, we discover that Thomas frowned upon Martha’s attempts to introduce Bruce to cinema and literature. “‘What’s the use of filling the boy’s head with imaginary things?’ he was apt to say.” Bruce recalls that his father used to listen to opera while performing surgery. “If the patient died, my father could always say they weren’t opera lovers,” Bruce recalls. “I believe that was my father’s attempt at humour.”

Cop on to yourself, man…

Loeb hints at a fundamentally dysfunctional dynamic between Bruce Wayne and his father, with Bruce unable to even tell when his father was joking. Given Thomas Wayne’s disdain for cinema, is it possible Bruce blames himself for dragging his parents to see The Mask of Zorro, compounding his guilt? That Bruce’s emotional difficulties might be rooted in that crucial father-son relationship Loeb suggests never properly developed?

Loeb even suggests that Bruce’s relationship with Dick is rooted in his desire to craft a surrogate father-son relationship, perhaps to make amends. “And I… wanted to make a difference in his life,” Bruce tells us. “The way, if my parents had lived, they would have made a difference in mine…” And Loeb acknowledges that the relationship between Bruce and Bick wasn’t always perfect – perhaps suggesting that Bruce repeated some of the mistakes his own father made, being too emotionally distant or refusing to allow Dick to express himself. Bruce confesses that “the transition from Robin to Nightwing was… difficult” for both of them. History repeats?

Crossing swords…

As such, in essence, it seems like Hush is about change. As Batman watches his villains change – and is put off-balance by it – he finds the opportunity to change himself. He can grow and develop, breaking out of those old patterns. Loeb’s Batman seems inherently resistant to change. Superman seems surprised that Batman still doesn’t quite trust him after all this time. “All the good work. Including the J.L.A. How long has it been?” Even Catwoman recognises that Batman is caught in the same old pattern, teasing him, “We’ve done this dance for a long time. Too long. Aren’t you at all curious?” Batman and Catwoman had, after all, been flirting for almost seventy years without every truly developing their relationship. Superman and the Flash had both married their early partners – and yet Bruce remained curiously alone, curiously static.

It’s clear that some small part of Bruce wants  to be able to trust others – to break the cycle. It seems like Loeb seems to concede that Batman’s increasingly frequent characterisation as “obsessive loner” might not be the healthiest portrayal. Bruce seems to look at Lois and Clark with something approaching envy. “He made the choice to be honest with her,” Bruce observes. “To share both sides of his life. Could I find that trust in…?” He even concedes that he might be half-way there, that characters exist implicitly in on the secret. “Perry White is too good a reporter not to have uncovered Clark’s secret. And yet, he acts otherwise… reminding me how good a detective Jim Gordon is back in Gotham City… Maybe… Clark and I both have people in our lives we could trust more than we admit…”

The killing joke…

And yet there’s something tragic here. About half way through the arc, Bruce comments on his father’s affection for the opera. “There was something about the opera,” Bruce tells us, “how they often ended in tragedy — that my father found appealing.” In a way, Hush is a tragedy about how Bruce can’t allow himself to change, how he can’t even trust himself, let alone Catwoman. He reveals his secret identity to her, but his internal monologue remains suspicious. He plants a tracker on her and follows her. As he fixes his computer, he thinks, “Admittedly, Catwoman has been a… distraction. Is that what my opponent intended?”

Even after the matter has been resolved, after she mutters the word “hush”, his paranoia is still firing up. “Was she part of this…?” Bruce’s apophenia – his desire to fit everything into neat little boxes – can’t allow him to accept anything at face value. He’s so paranoid that the choice of a single world sends him speculating about possible betrayal or the fact that some sinister ominous villain might be constructing an elaborate plot against him.

What a croc!

And that’s the tragedy of Hush, if you ask me. Bruce has the opportunity to change everything and break out of the cycle he has found himself in. It seems that even the villains can do that. He has the chance to accept that he loves Selina and to make the most of it. Instead, her falls back into the comfortable status quo. It makes Loeb’s Batman an inherently tragic figure, and I think it gives Hush a nice bit of depth, despite some of the admittedly awkward and contrived plotting.

I appreciate a lot about the story. I like the way that Loeb writes Batman – not the self-aware encyclopedia of Grant Morrison, nor the aggressive sociopath of Frank Miller. Instead we get a nice hard-boiled style that suits the medium. Batman doesn’t know everything ever. He’s flawed. He’s a great detective, but he’s still only human. It’s fun to watch him piece things together with various scraps of information and try to reach a conclusion – during the graveyard scene, for example, or during his arrest of the Riddler.

A knight at the opera…

I also like the way that the story plays with the fundamental setup of the Batman universe. It changes things. Two of Batman’s rogues now know that Bruce Wayne is Batman (and Loeb expertly writes the final scene explaining why they’ll keep it secret) and Harvey Dent is back. Sure, both of these decisions would be undermined – with one of the two villains getting plot-induced amnesia and Harvey re-scarring himself in Face the Face. But, judged on their own merits, these attempts to change things show a dynamism rare in comics. That they were undone so quickly is somewhat disappointing, but says nothing about Loeb’s efforts here.

It’s also nice to see an exploration of the impact that Jason Todd’s death had on him. It isn’t a new idea, but here Loeb seems to suggest that the death of Jason is as important as the death of his parents in shaping who Batman is – and he makes a strong case. “The entire time I’ve been Robin,” Tim tells Selina, “every lesson — every move that Batman taught me — is intended to keep what happened to Jason from happening to me. No matter what he says, Jason’s death still haunts him.” Even the Riddler realises it. “Question: what is Batman’s greatest defeat? Answer: the death of Robin.” In many ways, the loss of Jason Todd is truly defining moment for Bruce, and Loeb makes sure to give it the appropriate amount of weight.

Cat’s got his tongue…

It’s also nice to see some development on the Catwoman/Batman romance, which (along with the restoration of Harvey Dent) serves as a nice link back to Loeb’s earlier triumph, The Long Halloween. It also creates the sensation of movement. The two shared romantic chemistry even as far back as the Golden Age (and share an origin in Frank Miller’s Year One). It is nice to see the follow-through on that and it provides a neat segue into Loeb’s identity theme: is Batman really a loner?

The fact that he surrounds himself with friends and allies suggests otherwise, but he does keep them at a distance. He may not be alone, but is he lonely? Sure, Loeb’s resolution ultimately doesn’t change anything, but it’s how he gets there that makes it interesting – he explains to us how and why things must be the way they are, which is a rare insight.

What a croc…

Admittedly there are some flaws. There are far too many characters and it’s far too cluttered with tangents. The image of Luthor in the White House is nice thematically and answers the question of who provided the kryptonite lipstick, but it is a bit of a waste for a six-panel appearance (maybe Loeb was setting up Batman/Superman). The Scarecrow’s appearance distracts from the emotional “reunion” which follows, even though he is an important part of the plot (naming Hush and profiling the players) and gets a more complex relationship with the mastermind in Paul Dini’s follow-up The Heart of Hush.

The focus on Huntress in particular as a member of the Bat-family seems a little intrusive – Nightwing and Robin are reduced to more-or-less cameo appearances, but Huntress has a definitive character arc running through the adventure. It just feels like too much on top of everything. The story is a little too busy for its own good, and could have easily done with a nice firm editorial trim, tidying away the unnecessary tangents.

Yes!

Loeb’s writing is… somewhat awkward at times. The writer has a tendency to repeat simple observations and comments – for example, the repeated assertion that Superman is a “Boy Scout.” At times, Loeb seems to state a bit too much of the obvious (telling us Batman is “order” to the Joker as “chaos”) and the mystery’s climax features a whole load of unnecessary exposition  that might have been better seeded earlier in the story. He somewhat awkwardly sign posts other developments in an attempt to create a sense of pathos – we get Bruce going on and on about how opera is inherently tragic before… wait for it… something tragic happens at the opera. It’s not that bad, but Loeb’s stylistic quirks are in full force.

On the other hand, Loeb does seem to make a point to fill the story with as many archetypal Batman moments as possible. They aren’t necessarily the finest examples of each, but Loeb and Lee seem to take great pride in checking items off the “great Batman story” checklist. It’s crafted with a lot of affection, but it also feels just a tad derivative. That said, Jim Lee illustrating these sorts of iconic Batman moments should be worth the price of admission alone. Indeed, the collection makes a solid introduction to the world of Batman, even if Loeb does lean a bit heavily on old continuity. For example, the ending hinges on dragging Batman’s old assistant Harold out of mothballs with no foreshadowing or set-up.

And they all appear... every single one...

And they all appear… every single one…

Still, all the archetypal moments are here. A Batman/Superman fight? Check, complete with reference to The Dark Knight Returns. (“He can’t stopped. But he can be stunned. Even if it takes a whole city to do it.”) Batman contemplating breaking his code and killing the Joker, with angst over his responsibility for allowing the Joker to continue killing? Bingo. (“Except that I should have killed him long ago.”) Neal-Adams-inspired sword-fight with a shirtless Ra’s Al Ghul in the desert? You betcha. I actually like the idea of having so many of these archetypal moments so densely woven into the story – it makes Hush feel somewhat greater than the sum of its parts, giving it a much larger scale than it would really have otherwise.

It’s also a little bit distracting to see Loeb dealing with all the gadgets and gizmos and continuity that comes with the mainstream DC universe after enjoying the pared-down, restrained approach of Haunted Knight or The Long Halloween. Here there’s everything from post-hypnotic suggestion to target-locking Bat-vision to the genetic engineering of Killer Croc. It’s fun and it’s no doubt as silly as it was intended to be, but crucially it’s also a mess. It lacks the more grounded feeling of The Long Halloween and other similar stories, and there’s a sense that Loeb can rationalise anything away (or escape any awkward situation or close any inconvenient loopholes) by using technobabble.

A super smackdown…

I get what Loeb is trying to do. Hush is very clearly much more of a “superhero” story than those adventures set earlier in Bruce’s career. Bruce recovers extraordinarily well (and extraordinarily well) from radical brain surgery. Unable to speak, he taps out his thoughts in Morse code. He abducts Talia from a jet in mid-air. The story is full of all the great superhero trappings. When the Riddler commits a robbery, Bruce suggests, “Let’s take the car.” Nightwing responds, “Great. Which one?” Cue a gratuitous continuity shot of just about every Batmobile ever. It occasionally overwhelms the character work that Loeb is doing, as if the story is pushing towards the next “cool moment!” rather than the next “great character beat.”

But I can forgive it that, because when it works (which is most of the time) it really works. The confrontation with the Joker outside the opera house isn’t original. We’ve seen Batman driven to nearly murder the fiend before, but it is well-written and emotional. It’s a quiet scene with some wonderfully illustrated flashbacks and a great moment between Jim Gordon and Batman. That sort of thing is Loeb writing at his finest. And it always feels epic, involving just about everything. Maybe not in the carefully-structured and considered way that Loeb’s earlier work was, but it is still a solid, enjoyable ride.

The last laugh…

Despite the various attempts to ‘rectify’ what the story did to Gotham’s underworld, it did have a rather large impact on the way that the Caped Crusader’s world operated. Maybe not as earth-shattering as The Long Halloween, but it’s worth considering that this arc introduced a new villain in Hush, offered the first hints of Jason Todd’s resurrection and managed to foreshadow the Riddler’s retirement from crime. That’s not bad at all. Despite how people might feel about each of those threads, it’s certainly an accomplishment.

Speaking of the Riddler, I do quite like Jeph Loeb’s take on the character. In many ways, the Riddler is the real villain of Hush – despite Thomas Elliot’s decision to dress up in bandages and shoot a pair of guns. Loeb has a fairly consistent way of characterising Batman baddies. For example, the Scarecrow who appears here is very clearly the same version of the character who appears in The Long Halloween. Similarly, this is the same version of the Riddler who would appear in When in Rome.

Robin flutters about…

This version of Edward Nigma is defined as especially petty, and all the more dangerous for it. It seems that other characters are liable to discount him, given his modest goals and gimmicky means. Even Batman initially suggests that the Riddler has been left out of whatever his foes are planning. Explaining his motivation for this grand scheme, Nigma insists, “I used to be  a somebody in this town. Now, everybody has a gimmick. I was going to show them all. And I did.” His plan is fairly effective, and quite devastating, but Loeb’s Riddler is still pathetic and defeated. Batman defeats him using logic, rather than fists – something undoubtedly compounding the Riddler’s embarrassment.

More than that, the ending of the story reinforces Nigma’s position at the bottom of the foodchain, much weaker than the rest of Batman’s baddies. “In case you ever do decide to trade on my identity,” Batman warns him, “keep in mind, Ra’s Al Ghul is still looking for who used his pit. Question: how would you fare against the entire League of Assassins?” That keeps Nigma in line and provides a nice resolution to the story – proving that Batman doesn’t need to win a brawl to close the story out.

His bite’s worse than his bark…

I know that Jim Lee’s art is divisive, but I like it. A lot. The images look incredible and larger than life. The Absolute Edition comes with a short “commentary” by Lee where he points out all manner of little items included in his art. The art is incredible and one of the benefits of including all the villains is that Lee gets to bring his own unique take on just about every Batman character. Nice.I know it’s not the most dynamic artwork – arguably akin to a collection of pin-ups – but it suits the story quite well. Loeb writes this archetypal Batman story, and that’s just what Lee illustrates.

In particular I have a soft spot for the use of watercolours for the flashbacks, apparently intended to evoke The Long Halloween and Dark Victory. In particular, a short scene with Bruce and his childhood friend spotting Alan Scott in Metropolis is magical and says more about the Golden Age hero’s influence on Bruce than all of Ed Brubaker’s Made of Wood.

City of heroes…

The Absolute Edition itself is nice to have for the size and the detail included, but I get the impression that this collection was rushed out the door once the arc was completed to maximise the amount of money to made. It’s thinner than most volumes, but comes with a sketch gallery, the aforementioned commentary (which is quite light), and an interesting introductory discussion between Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee. Still, there’s nothing that really jumps up apart from the opportunity to read the book “in high definition” as it were.

It’s a solid, entertaining arc that is well worth a read, but isn’t quite up there with the author’s earlier work on the character. Still, you’d have to look pretty far for a story with this epic a scope which generates the same tension and excitement.

3 Responses

  1. You constantly bring up flexibility and reinterpretation when discussing Batman, but there are fundamental pieces of his character you can’t change. Batman CAN’T be anything anyone wants.

    Like here. Bruces life prior to the death of his parents has to be as perfect as possible to highten the tragedy. If any part of his life isn’t as great as it can be, he doesn’t have as much motivation to become Batman.

    It’s just basic storytelling. I’ve grown rather bitter with your review style how instead of making statements on how something should be and is, you always discuss theories.

    Like on the Vampire trilogy, you discussed Batman doesn’t kill because he couldn’t pull himself back from that. Okay.

    1. Batman doesn’t kill. Ever. Because it’s what he’s trying to stop from happening, and he isn’t going to perpetrate the same type of violence he’s preventing.

    2. Couldn’t pull himself back? Bruce, at age 8, made a commitment to stop ALL CRIME and spent 13 years training nonstop to become the ultimate weapon against crime. If he made a commitment to kill the Joker and then never kill again, I’m sure he’d be able to do it.

    • Okay, well that’s a fair observation to make about my review style. I just find it fun and worthwhile to unspool the threads of what I am reviewing. There are certainly cases where I’ll object on the grounds of the difference between what something should be and what it is, but I personally find it more satisfying to keep an open mind and let the work itself make a convincing case for what it should be rather than imposing my own expectations upon it. But, I mean, mileage varies and so forth.

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