Heart of Hush

Detective Comics 846
Detective Comics #846

In Detective Comics #846, writer Paul Dini begins the five-part “Heart of Hush” storyarc.  “Hush” is the name of the villain Thomas Elliot.  Elliot returns to Gotham City after hearing rumors that someone is hunting the Batman. For Hush this is an outrage because he believes it is his destiny to destroy Batman.

The story is mainly told from the perspective of Thomas Elliot.  Elliot, with completely bandaged face has purchased a “hospital” and has staffed it with unwilling nurses.  He tells us:  “Recently I began hearing whispers of The Black Glove, a mysterious entity that seeks Batman’s extinction. Those rumors only hastened my return. For only Hush has the right to execute you for the crimes you inflicted on me when I was first a boy and then a man.”   In flashback we are told the grim, twisted story of Thomas’ youth from his perspective.  He blamed his parents (Roger and Maria Elliot) for his troubles.  When he was ten years old he tampered with the brakes on their limousine and his father died. His mother survived, though both his parents were treated by Dr. Thomas Wayne. Maria Elliot would constantly quote famous thinkers and authors to her son.  Her praise for Bruce Wayne (and the Wayne family in general) made Thomas Elliot bitter, jealous, and angry.

Elliot’s rage issues developed as a youth and he fostered them as he grew older. When Bruce’s parents were killed, Elliot felt that it was an act of cosmic justice. Nevertheless, he eventually figured out Bruce Wayne had become Batman. Elliot then spent much of his life studying his “rival.”  In Detective Comics #847, in the present time, Elliot keeps a close eye on Zatanna and Selina Kyle.

Issue #848 of Detective Comics starts off with some excitement as Elliot sneaks into Selina Kyle’s home. They battle, but Selina is caught off guard when she rips Elliot’s bandages off and sees Bruce Wayne’s face.  We next see Kyle prepped for surgery in Elliot’s creepy hospital.  After several pages of flashbacks detailing more of Elliot’s past hatred for Bruce’s success, Barbara Gordon contacts Batman and tells him that an ambulance dropped a patient off at Gotham General – Selina Kyle.  Kyle’s heart had been cut out of her body.  The last page of this issue is a full-page frame of Batman standing over Kyle in a hospital room. Kyle is only alive because of a variety of machines keeping her alive.

Detective Comics 850
Detective Comics #850 cover

Finally, in issue #850 all of Elliot’s diabolical plans come to a head. Elliot escapes Batman at the corrupt hospital and attempts to gain access to the Wayne mansion by sneaking past Alfred – who is not fooled.  Batman finds Selina’s heart preserved cryogenically and he contacts Mr. Teriffic to ask for help.  Batman crashes into Wayne Manor, surprising Elliot. The battle continues down into the Batcave whereat Elliot’s jealousy is fueled when he sees the extravagance of technology in the cave.  During the fight, Elliot’s bandages get caught in the Whirlbat’s blades. It crashes into the cave walls over the water and Nightwing and Robin search for the body:  “I think he’s really gone this time. Only thing left was a blood-soaked bandage.”

The issue ends with Selina Kyle, fully recovered two months later, leaving a message for Elliot. She admits she doesn’t know if Elliot survived, but that she has taken revenge on him.  She decided that money is what is most important to Elliot and in the message she relates that she vowed to separate Elliot from all of his money – much like he separated her from her heart.

This five-issue storyarc is really well done, albeit dark and twisted. At first, I did not like it, but then after rereading it, I began to appreciate all the subtle psychological and criminal aspects.  I had not been familiar with Hush/Elliot previous to this storyarc, so I really enjoyed the flashback information.  Elliot is a twisted individual driven by jealous and rage.  However, what makes him a fascinating enemy for Batman is that he is meticulous, patient, and intelligent.  While the Joker is Batman’s ultimate foe, and Ra’s Al Ghul is a real menace to Batman, I have to say that Elliot is one of the most apropos villains. Elliot, like Batman, has no super powers.  He grew up alongside Bruce and therefore knows Bruce differently than, say, the Penguin or Ra’s Al Ghul.  Further, Elliot is patient and intelligent, carefully crafting his revenge.  I think Elliot is extremely disturbed and frightening, however, as an adversary, I think he’s excellent. Although the story moves somewhat slowly and ponderously through these five issues, there are a lot of reasons to like the storyarc.  The exploration of Selina and Bruce’s relationship is one example.

Detective Comics 852
Detective Comics #852 cover

But the story does not end there…. In Detective Comics #852, we learn that Elliot survived. Attempting suicide, Elliot was saved from the river by sailors who believed him to be Bruce Wayne.  Capitalizing on this fortune, Elliot decides he will impersonate Bruce and siphon Bruce’s fortune away from him.  Elliot knows he needs to stay low-key, so he travels to various foreign countries where Wayne Enterprises has holdings.  Since Bruce is currently MIA, there is less of a chance of people noticing Bruce Wayne in two different places at one time.  Elliot swindles Connie Winters at the Peregrinator’s Club, Russell Corey (President of Ularoo Media) in Australia, and attempts a scheme in Vietnam at a rainforest resort owned by Wayne Enterprises.  Although there are minor altercations that Elliot evades, in Vietnam things go wrong.  He ditches his plans and commandeers a jungle jeep.  The jeep is eventually waylaid by jungle poachers in the employ of none other than Selina Kyle, who takes Elliot as her prisoner.

This is a really good issue because it makes the reader rather aggravated with the Elliot character.  After all of the mayhem in the “Heart of Hush” storyarc, the fact that Elliot lives is exasperating.  The fact that he, again, is saved from death because of luck (the sailors finding him) is a real stab.  The best thing about this issue is how Paul Dini manages to make the reader hate Elliot so much.  There is something inherently unjust and unfair in Elliot’s assuming Bruce’s identity and being able to so easily use it to swindle and steal from Bruce.  With nothing more than $60 in his pocket, Elliot goes from drowning in a river to gaining at least three million dollars of Wayne Enterprises funds.  Though we hate the villain, this is very good storytelling. The cover for the issue shows Elliot wearing his mother’s amulet.

Batman 685
Batman #685 cover

In issue #685 of Batman, we are told the rest of the story.  It turns out Catwoman (Selina Kyle) is in Vietnam because of the poaching of animals that is taking place there. She captures Elliot and, after torturing him for a bit, shares her story with him. She is swindling the poachers in Vietnam while pretending to work with them.  Since they believe that Elliot is Bruce Wayne, they think he is more valuable than the exotic, endangered animals they are selling on the black market. Selina intends to use Elliot as a diversion – while “allowing” him to escape and alerting the poachers to his running, she will let loose the animals and make her own escape.  Catwoman says that two personal aides, Quan and Bao, will lead Elliot to the river where a boat is waiting for him.

The plan works well, but when the escapees reach the river, it turns out Quan and Bao are none other than Nightwing and Robin. Elliot is surprised.  I was practically cheering at this turn of events.  I was surprised, but I suppose some readers might not have been.  Nevertheless, Elliot is defeated and taken prisoner.  He is put in a penthouse-jail on top of Wayne Tower. The penthouse is rigged in a variety of ways to keep Elliot inside. The issue ends with Elliot smugly telling himself that one day they will let their guard down and he will be ready.

I loved this issue. It provides the catharsis necessity after the issue of Detective Comics wherein Elliot scams his way back to wealth.  The surprise of Nightwing and Robin was fun.  Also, the ever-cool and calculating skills of Catwoman add a nice touch to the issue.  It was also interesting to be outside of Gotham City and in such an under-used location such as Vietnam.  I did not love the interior art by Dustin Nguyen, though his covers for the “Heart of Hush” storyarc were striking.  The cover for this issue was done by Alex Ross, who’s skills as a cover artist are awesome.  I do not really like Nguyen’s interior art because it always seems very angular and sharp to me. I do think he has excellent skill at perspective and making the art work with the story, yet the pencils just are not the easiest on my eye.

I thought that the end of “Heart of Hush” was the end of Elliot for awhile – at least of appearances from him.  To see him alive so soon was interesting. I was pleased with how the story was continued a couple issues later when we get this “epilogue of sorts,” and how it transferred from Detective Comics to Batman smoothly. I was intrigued to see how well done the issues were without their lead character, Batman. Needless to say, Paul Dini’s depiction of Elliot is impressive and gripping.

4 stars

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