Animated Batman films are more than a comfort food: they’re an institution. I was locked in ever since Mask of the Phantasm, and although the vast majority of them don’t match that masterpiece, many come close. Batman: Hush is close enough.
Although many consider Kevin Conroy to be the definitive Batman, Jason O’Mara has really grown into the role. He’s only had around five years to do it after all, compared to Conroy’s nearly three-decade run: yet, he fills those shoes nicely with just enough gruff to be Batman and the right amount of charm to convincingly give us Bruce Wayne. Batman’s design is still on point, and Warner Bros. Animation gets it done here, at least in terms of character designs (backgrounds and set pieces, not so much, par for the course).
But the focus isn’t entirely on the caped crusader or even just the titular villain Hush for that matter. The usual rogues’ gallery shows up in spades, on top of a brief stint from Superman. If there was ever a property that knows how to shift around so many different perspectives and characterizations, it’s Batman. I mean at this point the waters are kind of muddied by so many supporting characters (including multiple Robin incarnations) that it could be tough for newcomers to become invested, but they still pull it off; albeit with obvious exposition.
It really boils down to one constant: the strength of the source material. The reason that there’s such a seemingly endless well of Batman tales is because storytellers are always ready to embrace the more vulnerable sides of Bruce, which makes him such a timeless hero. It isn’t far into the film that we see him momentarily broken and battered, and although that is a trope at this point (used to varying effect by many artists) it shows restraint.
I’m a sucker for Batman tales with more detective work than smashing, and the latter is a bit more emphasized here than I’d like. Yes, there are alterations to the original story, but given that this is an adaptation after all and the original still exists, it’s an easy thing to forgive. Hush’s actions, threatening the livelihood of Bruce and his secret identity, are arguably showing our hero at his most vulnerable.
It’s no Dark Knight Returns (not even close), but Hush has been a story worth popularizing for years now and I’m glad WB didn’t waste this opportunity. As Catwoman shouts in the film, “it took them long enough!”