Top positive review
An action-packed, engaging Batman story
Reviewed in the United States on May 6, 2017
I will admit, I watched the excellent movie before reading this collection, so I was not surprised by much in this story. However, there are numerous plotlines left out of the movie, further explanations on the origin of Red Hood, and more depth in this collection. In short, even if you HAVE seen the movie, this collection is still different enough to not be classified as entirely predictable.
When I first opened the envelope this book came in, I was surprised at its size. I had looked at the page count on the product description, but was still taken back a bit by how big this collection is. I paid a bit more than I thought I would have to for this book, but immediately felt a bit relieved when I saw its girth. Anyway, the writing style is very enjoyable. This functions pretty well as a stand-alone book, but there are a few significant story points readers ought to be familiar with before reading this collection. I had read 'Death in the Family' before this, so I knew all about Joker's murdering of Robin. If you're a Batman fan that has read pretty much any comic post 1986(ish), this should come as no surprise to you. What was surprising was that, apparently, Black Mask (who is a delight to read in this story) is no the chief mob boss in Gotham. While this was explained briefly, it felt a little off at first, since as far as I have read, Black Mask has been a hard B-level villain. There are several plot points similar to this in UtRH, but nothing is outright confusing. What I'm trying to say is that this Batman story is definitely more entrenched in then-current story canon than say, The Long Halloween. Regardless, dialogue is penned very well, with characters' speech patterns easily distinguishable and organic. The story moves a bit awkwardly at some points, in a way that I can only say was noticeable because I have seen the film adaptation. I must say, certain points of the movie's scene ordering is superior to the book, but the movie had the advantage of picking and choosing which elements it wanted to retain. Overall, this is a just a cool story, and the stakes feel real for the Dark Knight. He is facing one of his most challenging opponents, an opponent he may not be able to, or even want to, stop.
The art was slightly disappointing in this collection. Mahnke's talent has improved over the years from this work, so the work here has not all aged well. The most noticeable example is probably the image at the start of each chapter. Batman's chest looks laughably stylized, and way off-proportionally. That being said, none of his work is awful; it is at worst mediocre. In certain panels, he knocks it out of the park, and that is the art I identify most with this story. Selected panels from Jim Lee's Hush are included in the end of this book, which makes all prior work seem weaker by comparison.
To end, I'm very glad I purchased this book. It introduced an excellent new villain who is anything but black and white. This collection is not perfect, but it was a very satisfying read across every chapter. It never becomes dull, and while sometimes predictable, not riddled with distracting story tropes. While not enjoying the same proportional excellence as its movie counterpart, any fan of the movie, or Batman in general, will enjoy this collection.