If you asked me who my favorite Gotham City hero was, I’d probably say Nightwing. And if you asked me who my favorite Gotham City villain was, I’d definitely say Hush. So it was a no brainer to pick up a one-shot about the two of them facing off, especially written by Tim Seeley.
I love Hush because he’s such an honest and particular reflection of Batman and the character avoided losing his edge by leaning into that, actively becoming Bruce Wayne’s man in the mirror. But what’s most interesting about Batman: Prelude to the Wedding – Nightwing vs. Hush is how much it’s not a Batman story, or even a Bruce Wayne story; it really is a Nightwing and Hush story.
With the wedding of the century fast approaching, it’s time for Batman’s bachelor party! Superman and Nightwing plan a perfect night out for the Caped Crusader, but before long it’s crashed by Batman’s ‘real’ best man.
The bachelor party is cute. It’s a strange but believable night out for Batman that really reminds how much Bruce sees his nocturnal crusade as a job. Superman is a little broey at times but he’s a fun addition that opens up some interesting pathways for the narrative. So it’s cute, but it’s not quite the memorable connection that Damian and Selina shopping provided. I don’t know that it will transcend this issue, but it doesn’t necessarily have to; it’s a fine lead in to this story.
Of course, this isn’t a Gotham City story. Instead Seeley takes us to a strange in between world, perfect for this one-shot, yet far bigger if it wants to be. Even better, Seeley provides a weird, wonderful guide to this world, the likes of which would be at home hosting some forgotten 70s horror mag, were it not for his rather familiar brand of retro-modernity. The idea of Betwixt has a fundamental, archetypal power. It’s simple enough to be immediately clear, but rich enough to have real power and it hones in on the unique similarities between Dick and Tommy.
The interplay between the two is particularly sharp. Tim Seeley is a notably acerbic writer and his banter for Nightwing is wonderfully understated. Nightwing, and Seeley, don’t perform for the audience that isn’t supposed to be there, they are performers, they’re always on.
One thing I’ve really come to love lately is when banter is equal. You’re never going to out-banter Nightwing, but Hush, even in his enforced over-seriousness, gets some good shots in and neither one’s barbs hurt the other in the audience’s esteem. That balance is hard, but it’s very much appreciated, especially since is keeps things fun and absorbs the majority of the issue’s exposition load.
Seeley’s grasp on Dick Grayson is as strong as ever, possibly the most natural it’s ever been thanks to his previous work interrogating the character more.
Hush is limited by the premium on space and the need to reestablish his particular neuroses, but it’s an essentially truthful version of the character. His words have real hurt and venom and that helps to sell the closeness with Bruce that he likes to claim, even in the face of years apart or several murder attempts. Seeley also reintroduces Hush as a victim, giving him back his motivation and a sense of the pathetic that was missing in his previous post-Flashpoint appearances. The issue does a good job of introducing sympathetic elements to Hush without in any way excusing or diminishing his deranged obsession, and provides a version of the villain played straight without ignoring that he’s a bit of a ridiculous concept.
Of course, the ambiguous reintroduction of previously discarded continuity that’s been present in recent DC efforts is apparent here too, as certain Post-Crisis stories are vaguely referenced only for details to be suddenly overwritten. I honestly had really missed many of these elements, but there’s an uncertainty that comes with them being consciously written out, and then returned without acknowledgment. The idea that Hush doesn’t know Nightwing’s identity makes for a good reaction, but it’s more than a little silly. It not only decreases Hush’s menace that he can’t strike at Batman’s dearest, but really brings into question the incredible acumen that he’s supposedly known for when he can’t deduce who the four Robins are, when he already knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne, billionaire with four sons of similar heights.
This oddity is clearly in service of the issue’s climactic moment, but it needn’t have bothered, as it’s honestly one of the weakest elements of the story. Extremely derivative and not important enough to demand the suspension of disbelief that “Heart of Hush” had to summon up to sell it, Hush’s reveal is little more than an awkward attempt to drive conversation towards Seeley’s moral, and it’s not one that works terribly well in my view.
Prelude to the Wedding – Nightwing vs. Hush takes the position that Dick Grayson is Batman’s best friend and pits him against both Hush and, to a lesser extent, Superman. It’s very believable that Dick should be in consideration for the position of best man, but while there’s a special friendship that forms between a father and their adult son, Dick is Bruce’s child, not his friend, and that’s kind of weird.
Regardless, Seeley sets up a unique scenario that cleverly externalizes the questions of identity that often trail Dick and inherently follow Hush about. The idea cuts to the core of the characters and their relationship. It’s also very interesting to see Hush, and Nightwing, in a supernatural scenario. Admittedly it’s a little on the nose, but, in a one-shot format with responsibilities to set up the titular wedding, it’s understandable. It’s the first time we’ve seen Hush and Nightwing interact like this directly and the first time we’ve seen Hush’s issues externalized. The whole son/best friend thing weighs it down, but there’s a really strong, simple Nightwing story here that finds a way to utilize Hush, of all people, and makes it both interesting and entirely natural.
Travis Moore brings a core of solid, workmanlike design to the art, building it up with a gorgeous illusion of realism and some really strong inking choices. It’s always clear what’s happening in a panel, especially when its being communicated through body language. Moore’s designs lean towards the barrel-chested view of superheroes, with Batman in particular feeling a little stiff and heavy, but his grasp of movement and shadow are simply fantastic. The shading is put to especially good use in the case of the title characters, with the clinging shadows of Hush’s bandages and trenchcoat and the deep black of Nightwing’s costume brought out in a way that you don’t often see.
While the masks and bandages tend to stay on in this issue, once they’re removed we’re treated to some of Moore’s best work. Moore’s heroes and villains are lovely, but his people are simply top-notch. Sadly, we only get to see a couple this time around, but Moore offers one of the most beautiful Dick Graysons we’ve seen in some time, and that’s not a position that’s without some serious competition.
In the end, Nightwing and Hush’s contribution to the Bat-wedding is not essential. However, the issue does depict an important moment between Dick and Bruce. It takes its role as a somewhat unnecessary tie-in and makes that work for it, using the opportunity to tell a new story that I can’t imagine would have been told otherwise. Tim Seeley’s wit and creativity are on full display as he throws Nightwing into a strange new world that I honestly hope we see again. Travis Moore’s art holds the issue together, providing everything that Seeley requires and offering some of the most gorgeous panels of Dick Grayson I’ve ever seen. If you’re looking for more insight on the wedding, unless you’re dying to know who the best man is right now, this one is totally optional. Even as a fan of Nightwing or Hush, you don’t need to pick up this issue. But I recommend it. There’s something different between these covers and a simple but effective story that revels in the weirdness of Batman’s life. If that appeals, this issue might be for you.
Batman: Prelude to the Wedding – Nightwing vs. Hush is currently available in comic shops from DC Comics.