Batman: Hush (Volume 1) - Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee et al.
Okay, deep breath. At the start of Hush, Batman is rescuing a Harry Potter look-alike who's been abducted by Killer Croc - only for Catwoman to swoop in and steel the ransom, under the orders (and noxious influence) of Poison Ivy. Pursuing her across the rooftops of Gotham, Batman's rope is mysteriously cut, and he lands head first in the appropriately named Crime Alley. Fortunately, Oracle is paying attention, and she's able to get Huntress (above) to rescue him from the local thugs and stick his broken body into the Batmobile. And inhale.
You might well expect a book to involve some kind of fast-paced opening - introducing the characters and setting up the conflicts and so forth. Hush, however, starts the way it means to go on. Namely by flitting around like a hummingbird and cramming in loads of well-known characters. The dialogue is pretty much exactly what you'd expect from a comic book if you'd never read one before and had low expectations, the motivations are paper-thin, and the story provides no real mystery or insight.
Perhaps it's unfair to judge, though. DC Comics' probable aim in publishing this book was also the reason that I bought it - to see acclaimed artist Jim Lee draw many of Gotham City's most popular characters within the confines of one glossy paperback. To that end, Loeb's writing definitely serves its purpose. Here a stern Batman punches people. There a sultry Catwoman performs acrobatics. And here Superman turns up and pushes out his lantern jaw. If all you want is to own a Batman book full of pretty pictures, then this is a very good bet, and that's certainly the chief reason that I'll probably pick up Volume 2.
Although, that's maybe not the only reason I'll buy it. Perhaps this underpins the whole reason why I thought this book was so shallow, but I liked the bit with Huntress, and I want to see where her chilly relationship with Batman and Oracle goes in the rest of the story. Is that just because Huntress is a main character in Birds of Prey - one of the few superhero comics other than this that I've read? If I was more entangled in the superhero monopoly that has a stranglehold over western comics, would all the other characters seem deeper to me through familiarity? I'm not inclined to think so.
I think that maybe the thing that stands out about Huntress' little sequence is that it's one of the few parts of the book with recognisably human elements to it. The tension doesn't stem from whether or not she can beat up half a dozen reprobates - of course she can - the real drama in this sequence is about how Huntress doesn't fit in with the other darkly costumed vigilantes of Gotham City, and whether she's even going to get credit for saving the most important of their number. It makes me slightly interested in reading some of Loeb's more humanistic works - as opposed to the pretty but unfocused cash-in that we have here.