Writer: A.J. Lieberman
Artists: Al Barrionuevo, Javier Pina
Collects: Gotham Knights #50-55, 66
It was only a matter of time. The merits of the Hush storyline can be debated - and whether you like it or loathe it I think everyone can agree it has flawed - but the fact of the matter is that Loeb and Lee had a runaway hit in that story. No way was Hush going to fade into the ether. It was more a matter of when he'd be brought back.
Didn't take too long, as it turns out, and unlike the first round the quality isn't really up for debate.
So basically, it's like this; Hush is back and he's pretty pissed. Mostly at the Riddler. So he decides to track Nigma down and smack him around a little bit. Naturally, ol' Eddie doesn't really care much for this plan, she he decides to jump through a few windows and beg the Joker to protect him. Riddler tempts him with something he wants, so Joker takes Nigma in. Hush comes after Nigma anyways. Joker frowns a lot, because that's clearly a thing we should see Joker doing all the time. Prometheus shows up for some goddamn reason and ends up looking like a big joke. Hush finally manages to get his hands on Nigma and punches Joker a few times. Naturally the Jokers reaction to a good shellacking is to strip naked and run to the carnival from The Killing Joke.
You know, as one does.
Hush Returns is all over the place. I'm not entirely sure what the point of anything was, because we don't see one. Hush shows up and pays lip service to killing Batman, but he doesn't really do anything about it aside from recruiting Prometheus - who does a grand total of nothing except bleed out after Green Arrow puts a few arrows through him - and antagonizing Riddler. Batman muses a bit about Hush and how he's scared of him - Batman's not in this much, by the way - ultimately accomplishing little. Hush tries - and fails for about the third time - to get his hands on Nigma and at that point the story just ends after Joker streaks through some farmland to his broken down carnival. Then, inexplicably, the trade jumps forward a full ten issues to show us Hush beating Prometheus down for no reason we have any insight into and the Society shows up and it's all just a goddamn mess.
Why Prometheus? Why frowny Joker? What purpose does any of the events serve? Who the hell knows. I'm not even sure the writer did.
I'm serious about that, because things simply happen with no conclusion or purpose. Take Prometheus, for example; Hush talks about needing a partner and recruits him, but Prometheus doesn't do anything aside from shoot a couple people late in the trade. Robin visits some guy who claims to have the best quality... whatever, but we never find out what he sells, why Robin was there or what bearing it has on anything. We also learn that Jokers wife was murdered - an obvious attempt to definitively place the Killing Joke version of Jokers origin in continuity - but when Joker has the name of the cop responsible he does absolutely nothing with it before his beatdown and decision to go au naturale.
The characterization is just way, way off. Joker is probably the biggest example. Dude looks like someone just killed his puppy for the entire thing. He frowns for almost the entire duration of the trade - come on, laugh clown laugh - and seems completely, inexplicably sane. It's like someone threw Joker facepaint on a random guy. Then there's Green Arrow, who's mostly there to yell at Batman for not telling him Hush was going to Star City, despite the fact that Batman himself didn't even know the reason why. Then the writer tries to sell us on the tidbit that Batman's afraid of Hush; of course, he does a piss poor job of it, because Hush does little in this trade that would make a seasoned crime fighter shake in his boots. Even Penguin feels off the the short time he appears.
So the story and writing's a mess; how's the art? Workmanlike. It reminds me a lot of the general art style that was in use during these years. It's okay work, but nothing I'd actually enjoy; and certainly not solid enough to make up for the stories screw-ups. So what we end up with in the end is a story that bounces through plots like a pinball and resolves none of them coupled with okay art that certainly doesn't wow. Not exactly a winning combination.
I cannot in good conscience recommend this trade. It just isn't good. I don't exactly know anyone who would call the original Hush storyline top shelf comics, but it's practically Shakespeare compared to this. Avoid; there are far, far better Batman stories to spend your money on.
My Opinion: Burn It