Friday, January 06, 2006

"Hush Chapter Five: The Battle"
Batman #612 When: April 2003
Writer: Jeph Loeb Artist: Jim Lee

The story so far...
Someone has it out for Batman. Someone good.

Hush, Jeph Loeb's return to Batman, and Jim Lee's return to monthly comics work. This was the year long maxi-series that had everybody asking questions about who was out for Batman, and how they were so successfully manipulating the pieces against him.

Already the victim of battling a mutated Killer Croc, and having undergone brain surgery, you'd think Batman had reached the worst of things to come. That was, of course, before the mysterious Hush brought Metropolis into the picture. Before Poison Ivy entered the picture, and before Superman fell under her influence.

Tale of the tape...
For Secret Earth's readers, this just might be the rematch of the century.

Last time we talked about two very different characters. Characters that were much older, older than their ages even, aged by a world far darker and stark than anything the DC universe has seen. Earth-2 Superman's head would probably explode, if he saw the DKR universe, and how pathetic his counterpart had become.

In this particular scenario, things are very different.
Superman's weaknesses largely remain the same. He's still a boy scout, and what's left of his homeworld is still poison to him. Of course, the major difference is, this time Superman's not himself. This time Poison Ivy has her mits into him, and he's not particularly inclined to talk things out anymore.

The other difference is, this wasn't arranged.
Batman didn't have time to rig a suit to the city's power, and he didn't have time to plant his allies. Hell, he doesn't even have the familiar shadows to retreat into.
Metropolis, the city of light and purity doesn't favour the Batman, even if he is with Catwoman.

What went down...
Half way through Jeph Loeb's annual mega event, Hush was really starting to heat up, and things were only getting bigger.

Love or hate the conclusion, one thing remains irrevocably impressive about the character who was introduced to us, as Hush. He did the unthinkable, he didn't just recruit a massive Bat-villain team-up, his scheme was precise as surgery, and as big as art. As big, as Metropolis. As big as Superman!

As the dust settles, the Superman lowers himself to the ground, with Poison Ivy by his side. Hopefully that's information enough for you to realise Superman has become the victim of the vivacious villainess.

Apparently the glowing red eyes are more than just jazzy artwork as directed by Jim Lee, and coloured by Alex Sinclair. It tips Batman off to an incoming attack, giving him necessary time to hurl Catwoman out of harm's way, and disappear underground, into the water exposed by Superman's burning blasts.

Batman's most unbeatable asset is his mind, and ability for preperation.
From that wonderful belt of tricks, the Dark Knight produces two tiny oxygen filters, flicks over to nightvision, and turns on his boot sole propellors, and they're on their merry way. Just the usual fare for a night on the town with a lady.

The Superman's will is strong, he resists the command to kill, but Poison Ivy offers a reminder of her power. It's questionable whether even a super man can resist the lure of Poison Ivy, but Batman's plans largely rest on it.

Both he and Catwoman make their way through led-lined Lexcorp sewer systems, and prepare for the impending attack. From his belt, Batman produces something once entrusted to him by the man he's about to attack - Lex Luthor's Kryptonite ring.

Bats sets up a series of explosives, and clarifies his plan with Catwoman, "Any of the three of them." "It'll be the gal. If we want to get a reaction from him, it has to be the gal."

I don't think it tales the world's greatest detective to figure out who the three are. Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, and "the gal" - Lois Lane.

As thunderous blows echo and roar through the tunnels, Catwoman springs into action, leaving Batman to pay the piper.
As resistent to X-rays as lead is, Superman is inevitably able to bust his way into the systems.

Batman, Kryptonite ring at the ready, welcomes his Finest counterpart with a right, sending the Superman reeling. With super speed the ever present threat, it's evident Superman is still able to resist Ivy's control.
As futile as it is, Batman tries to use that resistence to break through. He warns that he opened a gas main, rendering heat vision out of the question, with an entire city block at risk of total destruction.

Sonics are next, rattling the super hearing of Krypton's last son.
He still has the clarity of mind to unleash his arctic breath, freezing the Batman's ring baring right hand. The Dark detective, ever ready uses a flare to blind his opponent, giving him the opportunity to fire his grappling hook, and leave Superman for dust as he lunges for the electric mains.

"Clark. About the gas main -- I lied."

Supes fries, blacking out the city.
It's not enough to slow the Superman down, though. In fact, the pain actually serves to rattle him enough to get angry. As he bursts out of the ground, Batman has only one option left - the gal.

High above the street, Catwoman teeters with Lois Lane held hostage.
"You can save her. Or fight me. It is your choice."

Of course, Lois has the stroke of genius to choose a flag pole as her time of resistence, elbowing Catwoman in the gut. Batman assures himself that if it were necessary, Catwoman could catch her - but it isn't.

The boy scout prevails, and Ivy's hold is broken.
The rest is history. Ivy goes back to Arkham, and... Krypto makes an appearance.

The Hammer...
Well, whatta ya know? Batman wins, again!

Alright, as far as rematches go, this probably wasn't the most unpredictable, but it was still a bloody good fight.

Actually, predictability was probably an unfortunate monkey on the back of the Hush twelve part storyline, but it wasn't all bad. In fact, taking each chapter as it came, it served it's purpose. It generated sales and hype, and it was very enjoyable.

This was the event that lured me to DC for the first time since I was a small child. I haven't looked back since, so I certainly owe this series that much.
I think breaking this issue down, it really accomplishes the narrative that some of Millar's fight issues failed at.

I think Loeb's success with furthering the story through this particular fight, really comes from the relationship between the two characters, and the ramifications the fight has on the larger threat. If Hush could manipulate and control Superman, what else could he do to as suburban a hero as Batman?

As a fight, it was a little brief, but it did what it set out to do.
This wasn't at all the DKR fight, if anything it's an obvious son-of-DKR. Does Loeb owe a lot of his successes to Frank Miller? Maybe, but I think this fight really stands on it's own.
It moves within the confines of this established world, and doesn't utilize the luxuries of manufactured convenience that the DKR fight had.
The fight: 5
The issue: 4

Poison Ivy - Posession by mind control. (Superman)
Batman - Multiple critical blows. (Superman)
Catwoman - Assist; kidnapped Lois Lane as distraction.

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