THIS WEEK: Tales from the Dark Multiverse returns with a glimpse at a dark alternate version of the fan-favorite Batman: Hush storyline, but how does this new take stack up against the original?
Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Batman – Hush #1
Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Penciller: Dexter Soy with Sergio Davila
Inker: Dexter Soy with Matt Santorelli
Colorist: Ivan Plascencia
Letterist: ALW’s Troy Peteri
Cover Artist: David Marquez & Alejandro Sanchez
DC’s previous run of five Tales from the Dark Multiverse one-shots were fairly enjoyable alternate looks at classic DC stories. The series returns this week with a story billed as being based on Jeph Loeb & Jim Lee’s early ‘00s “Hush” storyline. The actual issue presents an entirely alternate history for Bruce Wayne and “Hush”’s titular villain, Thomas Elliot, and has next to nothing to do with the tale it’s named after beyond Elliot’s presence as the story’s main character. It’s an ambitious undertaking akin to the old Elseworlds stories of the ‘90s, but unfortunately it may have been too much to take on.
Writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson and artists Dexter Soy (with an assist from Sergio Davila and Matt Santorelli) and Ivan Plascencia have an enormous amount of world-building to pack into the pages of this book, and it doesn’t always come across well or land in an entertaining way. The issue is front-loaded with clunky expository dialogue, and the stakes of what’s happening throughout the story appear to be high, but the only reason readers know that is because they’re told by the characters. There’s no actual weight to anything that’s going on because the reader isn’t given any reason to care beyond ‘it’s a character you already like, but look how different they are!’
That’s not to say Dark Multiverse: Hush doesn’t have some interesting ideas in it — in particular, the independent city-state of Gotham and the political upheaval taking place in the city, with protests in the streets that feel a little too familiar given the past year and what we may be facing in the coming weeks. Those elements feel almost tacked on, though, and ultimately of no consequence to the story, especially given the twist ending that might have been more effective had the relationship between certain characters been fleshed out at all.
The visuals in Dark Multiverse: Hush are solid, without trying to mimic the work Lee did on the original story. Once this book gets going it moves at a break-neck pace, and Soy’s manga-infused style helps keep the energy level high. Some of Soy’s character designs are interesting, particularly for the alternate versions of Cassandra Cain and Barbara Gordon, and the new Batman (aka “Arkham’s Devil”) is a nice amalgamation of Batman and Hush (with a bit of Jean-Paul Valley thrown in in the shoulder pads). Others are less so, like the relentlessly-complicated look for Tim Drake that seems like it’s trying to combine all of his various costumes into one.
Ultimately, Dark Multiverse: Hush is an admirable attempt at world-building that ends up a slight and unsatisfying read. Perhaps hewing closer to the story that it’s named after might have made for a more entertaining read — there were certainly plenty of twists and turns in that story that would have lent themselves to further exploration. Instead we’re left with underdeveloped characters, untapped potential ideas, and yet another origin story for an evil version of Batman.
Final Verdict: Skip.
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