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Comic Book / Batman: Hush

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"Without friends, no man would choose to live, though he had all other goods."

Batman: Hush is a 12-issue story, out of the monthly Batman comic, published between December 2002-September 2003, written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair.

It marked Jim Lee's first major return to monthly comics since Heroes Reborn for Marvel in the mid 90s, plus his first collaboration with Jeph Loeb (who to that point had made a name for himself on Challengers of the Unknown, plus the Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween specials, The Long Halloween and Dark Victory).

It worked alongside stories from the comics of the day (namely Lex Luthor being president of the United States, Jim Gordon’s retirement, plus Gotham still recovering from an earthquake and Batman: No Man's Land), and had massive repercussions that to a large extent still impact the Bat-universe to this day.

The plot goes something like this: an old/new enemy of the Batman is striking at him in all new, all-murdery ways. At the same time, the B-man undergoes a deeply introspective deconstruction that brings into question his views on his allies, his villains, and himself. Characters and themes introduced here (namely Dr. Thomas Elliot) show up in other cross-media places, like Gotham and the Batman: Arkham Series.

Loeb tied up some threads from this story in his run on Superman/Batman, and eventually went off to Marvel; while Jim Lee went on to draw All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder for Frank Miller in 2006, and later still become one of DC's co-publishers.

An Animated Adaptation by the way of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies had been rumored for a while, until Batman: Hush (2019) was finally announced at the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con as part of the 2019 lineup.

Provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Part of Hush’s backstory is that he resented how his parents treated him poorly. Also his Freudian Excuse.
  • Action Girl:
    • Catwoman is the deuteragonist and partakes in just as many battles as Batman himself. Some of her feats include fighting Tim Drake and Huntress to a standstill and disarming the fake Jason Todd.
    • Huntress shows up at the beginning of the comic to rescue a mortally wounded Batman, beating up several Mooks by herself in the process.
    • Harley Quinn cleverly lures Batman and Catwoman into traps while fighting them at the opera, managing to momentarily gain the upper hand against both.
    • Lady Shiva has the reputation of being one of the most formidable members of the League of Assassins, which she proves by effortlessly curb-stomping Catwoman.
  • Advertised Extra: An early promotional artwork for the story (which also serves as the cover for the collected TPB edition) features Superman, Joker, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and Killer Croc, all of whom make at most three chapters’ worth of appearances in the overall story.
  • Another Story for Another Time: Hush’s backstory and connection to Bruce get deeper explanations years later, during the "Heart of Hush" story and Batman (Grant Morrison).
  • Art Evolution: At the start of the series, Batman is huge and stocky not unlike how Batman looks for most of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (apparently a conscious choice by Jim Lee). However, as the series goes on, Batman becomes slimmer until he resembles Neal Adams' version from the 70's which apparently was NOT a conscious choice by Lee. He would make Batman consistently Miller-like again in All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder.
  • Art Shift: Lee uses painted art for flashbacks (lighter softer tones for when young Bruce and Tommy se the Alan Scott Green Lantern, and blood red for when Batman revisits the death of Jason and the crippling of Barbara).
  • Awesome McCoolname: The Riddler admits this was part of why he selected 'Arthur Wynne' as his alias while being treated for cancer by Thomas Elliot. Aside from the obvious tribute to the inventor of the Crossword Puzzle, the surname always appealed to him ("Wynne, as")
  • Back for the Dead: Harold, Batman’s old mechanic from the 90s, briefly returns in the penultimate issue... only to be shot dead before he can reveal the identity of the true Big Bad.
  • Bait-and-Switch: About half-way through, there’s a good amount of set-up dedicated to making you think Jason Todd came back to life and is responsible for Bruce’s woes. It's later revealed that the true culprit is Tommy Elliot, with Clayface assuming Jason's identity purely to spite Batman. note 
  • Bat Deduction: Played with.
    • Little tidbits like what tire of the Batmobile was attacked and where Batman fell when his rope was cut are intentionally put in place to lead Batman in a certain direction but it's ultimately all smoke and mirrors to troll Batman.
    • When Hush actually confronts Batman. Batman's internal monologue goes crazy, picking up on any indication no matter how tiny as to who he is ("He's quoting Aristotle, is he Maxie Zeus? He's dual wielding pistols, is he Deadshot?") but ultimately fails to see the really obvious answer right in his face.
  • Beneath Suspicion: Batman immediately rules out any connection between the Riddler and the true Big Bad, due to the former not changing his MO like all the other villains. It turns out the Riddler was the true mastermind behind the entire conspiracy, using his newfound intellect after bathing in the Lazarus Pit to deduce Batman's secret identity and plot his demise by recruiting the aid of Thomas Elliot.
  • Betrayal Insurance: While Bruce is confident Riddler's pathology will not allow him to reveal his secret identity to anyone else, he still warns Eddie never to try to trade on the secret again. As Bruce reminds Riddler, Ra's al Ghul is still looking for whoever used his Lazarus Pit. Bruce has no compunctions about giving that information to Ra's.
  • Betty and Veronica: Talia and Selina get into a squabble over both being love interest to Bruce.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Hush has Batman down for the count, ready to end Bruce once and for all. Suddenly, Harvey Dent shoots Hush (non-fatally) into the river and promptly surrenders to Jim Gordon, basically saving the day.
  • Black Comedy: The Joker, in one of the reprint covers, wears a shirt reading “I Killed Jason Todd And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt.”
  • Body Double: The masterminds use Clayface's shape-shifting skills to toy with Batman. Said villain impersonates Thomas Elliot and Jason Todd on two separate occasions.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy:
    • Huntress attacks Catwoman while under the effects of Scarecrow's fear gas.
    • Superman is brainwashed by Poison Ivy's pheromone kiss, after she uses Kryptonite lipstick to get through his natural defenses. Under her influence, he nearly kills Batman with his heat vision.
    • Batman thinks his more impulsive actions throughout the story were due to a tracker Hush implanted in his brain, though this is ultimately unconfirmed, since he urges Superman to immediately destroy the device.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Lampshaded during Batman's fight with a Poison Ivy-controlled Superman. Even with the Kryptonite ring, there are only so many times he can punch Superman without breaking every bone in his hand, and the kevlar in his gloves only provides so much protection.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Gordon begs Batman to refrain from killing the Joker when the hero starts strangling the villain in a mad rage, telling him to believe in the law.
    Gordon: In the eyes of the law... In my eyes, you'll be no different from him.
  • The Cameo: Lex Luthor,Amanda Waller and Talia all make brief appearances in the story.
  • Continuity Nod: Being a Loeb story, it's a cavalcade of continuity references, a good deal of them to The Long Halloween and Dark Victory.
    • The Falcone penthouse shows up in #613.
    • Dent mentions that the Joker broke into Dent's home and beat him up. This was in The Long Halloween #4.
    • Scarecrow talks in nursery rhymes again.
    • Whole-Plot Reference to the above stories: A mysterious new villain shows up with a new scheme, in the process testing the Batman’s resolve while he deals with his existing Rogues.
    • Much of the arc is an Internal Homage to the most iconic Batman stories. Batman gets into a fight with Superman (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns), is dealt a seriously debilitating injury (Knightfall), deals with a seemingly resurrected Jason Todd (A Death in the Family), gets into a swordfight with Ra's al Ghul in a desert in the Middle East (the famous O'Neil/Adams run), and contemplates killing the Joker after he crosses the line one too many times (The Killing Joke).
  • Cliffhanger:
    • The fourth issue reveals Poison Ivy is controlling Superman, and she has just ordered him to kill Batman.
    • The fifth issue shows the Joker has apparently shot and killed Tommy.
    • The eighth issue ends with the revelation that Harvey Dent is back and reformed. And he chooses to release the Joker from Arkham because the latter didn’t kill Tommy.
    • The tenth issue ends with the apparent resurrection of Jason Todd.
  • C-List Fodder: The main casualty of the story is Harold, a minor Batman character who not only hadn't appeared in the comic in years, but doesn't even appear in this story prior to the moment of his death.
  • Complexity Addiction: The Riddler’s MO is to incorporate riddles into his schemes, which often leads him to employ ridiculously complex tactics while performing simple crimes. This gets deconstructed, as the Riddler is victorious in learning Batman’s secret identity, but is also unable to tell it to others, since a riddle whose answer is known by everyone is virtually worthless.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Batman mentions that he always brings a Kryptonite ring with him while visiting Metropolis, just in case he has to fight Superman for whatever reason.
  • Dating Catwoman: A central plotline is Batman's romantic relationship with Catwoman, which culminates in him revealing his secret identity as a display of confidence. Eventually deconstructed, as Hush's conspiracy ultimately left him too paranoid to trust her.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Not to the extent of The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, but this story really brings into question Batman’s lone wolf tendencies; plus Catwoman’s; the efficacy of the Rogues; the effectiveness of Batman's detective abilities; his relationships with his family; his relationship with Superman; and ultimately, whether he can really be happy or not. The answer is no.
  • Demoted to Extra: The Joker is reduced to a patsy in the newcomer Hush’s scheme. Riddler reveals later that he and Elliot had difficulty recruiting Joker for the scheme at first. He only said yes after they pitched him 'The Jason Todd Gag' and he couldn't resist.
  • Dented Iron: Catwoman notes all the scars Bruce has while he is being stitched up by Alfred.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: A lot of the plan was actually conceived by the Riddler, one of the least threatening members of Batman's rogues gallery.
  • Downer Ending: Bruce and Selina don’t stay together; Jason’s tomb is empty (foreshadowing his transformation into the anti-villainous Red Hood); Riddler knows Bruce Wayne is Batman; and Hush is still out there.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: The Riddler admits "The Lazarus Pit gives you a unique kind of...clarity." This is how and where he figured out Batman was Bruce Wayne.
  • Evil is Petty: The Riddler refuses to divulge the location of Jason Todd's exhumed body out of spite (especially after Bruce had just burst his balloon by correctly pointing out why knowing Batman's identity was worthless to him).
  • Fauxshadow:
    • There’s a good amount of implication that Luthor or Talia is behind Poison Ivy’s actions and supplied her with Green Kryptonite lipstick with which to control Superman. Turns out to be nothing.
    • A lot of coincidences in the attacks make it look like this might be Jason Todd resurrected and driven mad via a Lazarus Pit. Turns out he had no connection to anything. Until a later retcon did give him a role.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • As Batman creates holograms of the villains he has already defeated, he represents the mysterious mastermind behind their crimes as a comically large question mark. According to Jim Lee, this was done so that savvy readers could deduce that the Hidden Villain was none other than the Riddler, whose outfits always incorporated said punctuation mark.
    • Bruce speculates to Dick that their mysterious opponent is either someone new, or someone old trying something new. The final issue reveals both theories are correct. Thomas Elliot is a new Batman villain, while the whole plot was concocted by the Riddler (i.e. one of Bruce's oldest foes).
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Hush. By the end of the story, he’s shaken Bruce pretty badly—and years later during ‘Hush Returns’ and 'Heart of Hush’ Batman is still scared of him.
  • Glurge: In-Universe, Bruce reading ‘O Captain my Captain’ at Tommy’s funeral, or so Selina thinks.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The Riddler mentions that part of the reason why Poison Ivy agreed to work with him is because she secretly envies Catwoman, thus explaining why she decided to brainwash Selina at the beginning of the story.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Two-Face undergoes surgery to repair his scars. Once his slot in the plan is done, Harvey immediately reasserts himself as a good guy and pulls a Big Damn Heroes that ultimately saves the day.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Gordon tells Batman that if he kills the Joker, he will be no different from the criminals he fights.
  • Idiot Ball: The premise requires that the infamously Crazy-Prepared Batman doesn't have a contingency plan for Batrope failure.
  • Imposter Forgot One Detail: A variation. This is what dooms Clayface pretending to be Jason. As Batman muses, to make the deception work — to make him truly believe this was the second Robin resurrected — 'Jason' would've called him Bruce. What makes it a variation is that Clayface didn't forget; he didn't know, as Riddler and Hush had intentionally withheld that detail. And with the later retcon that the real Jason was present during this fight, it can be hand-waved that the future Red Hood wasn't going to tip his hand this early.
  • Improperly Paranoid: The psychological torture that Batman went through leaves him extremely paranoid by the end of the story, to the point he finds himself wondering whether he is still being manipulated by his foes. Catwoman tries to comfort him, telling him to "hush" before approaching for a kiss, but this single word causes Bruce to lash out and push her away. Interpreting that as a sign that he doesn't really trust her, Selina sorrowfully ends the relationship and walks away, leaving Batman alone with his fears.
  • Informed Loner: Discussed. Batman fears that his years spent as a crime-fighter may have contributed to his growing insociability, which is reflected in his inability to pursue a significant relationship with Catwoman despite their mutual interest. However, during Thomas Elliot's funeral, he sees himself surrounded by his closest allies, such as Selina, Tim Drake and Dick Grayson, and ponders that his reputation as a loner might not be warranted after all.
  • Inner Monologue: Several panels are peppered with Batman's thoughts, as he reminisces about his past and ponders about who could be behind the conspiracy.
  • Irrational Hatred: Tim pretends to have one for Selina.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Batman’s main bone of contention in having a meaningful relationship with Selina is his fear that she will die just like his former counterpart Jason Todd. Expanded upon later in the sister story ‘Heart of Hush’.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: New character Thomas Elliot is introduced and given an inordinate amount of focus only to be killed abruptly midway through the story in circumstances that other character point out as mysterious. It's not surprising that he turns out to still be alive and part of the Big Bad Duumvirate, as revealed by the Riddler in the final issue.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Riddler's motive rant in the final issue after the reveal. Nygma rages that in the old days, he used to be a somebody in Gotham. At this point, now everybody has got a gimmick. It's lampshading how the Riddler is one of the oldest Batman villains, yet had fallen out of focus with all the newer villains and wasn't being as utilized as much as some of the other, older rogues.
  • Lost in Translation:
    • Lois is writing a report on a therapist that sexually harassed a patient, when she amusedly realizes that if you put a space in "therapist", you get "the rapist". For obvious reasons, this line of dialogue won't make sense in any language other than English.
    • The Riddler provides Batman with a hint to his current location by asking the hero "What costs eleven million dollars, has four wheels and flies?". The answer is "a gold-plated garbage truck", but since the riddle is based on the meaning of the word "fly", it cannot be faithfully translated to other languages without being rendered nonsensical.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Hush got his name from the villains repeatedly telling each other to "hush hush." Soon after, the Scarecrow started to randomly sing "Hush Little Baby" and the name stuck. Nigma also mentions that the song fit Elliot because "it’s about a child who can never be satisfied."
    • Bruce realizes the Riddler is Elliot's silent partner after examining his medical records and discovering Elliot had been treating a cancer patient named Arthur Wynne...which is also the name of modern crossword puzzle's inventor. Who else but the Riddler would use such an alias?
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: Riddler has proven he's still got it as Gotham's cleverest carbon-based life form and he's discovered Bruce Wayne's secret identity...and it's utterly worthless. While Nygma had to reveal the secret to Thomas Elliot to make the whole scheme work, Bruce correctly concludes that Riddler's psychology and ego make him pathologically incapable of revealing it to anyone else. Riddler has also now earned the wrath of Ra's al Ghul for using a Lazarus Pit — and Bruce will tip off the Demon's Head if Eddie ever again tries to trade on Batman's secret.
    • That being said, Riddler is able to snatch a scrap or two of victory from his defeat (refusing to reveal the location of Jason Todd's exhumed body and Bruce's paranoia destroying his burgeoning romantic relationship with Selina).
  • Motive Misidentification: Batman figures that Tommy hates Bruce Wayne because Thomas Wayne failed to save the life of Tommy's father after a car crash. Tommy reveals it's because Thomas did save his mother and ruined the perfect "accident" Eliott had arranged to kill his parents for the inheritance, forcing him to let his mother live for years before he could get the money.
  • My Greatest Failure: Batman goes through his greatest hits as he nearly beats the Joker to death. This includes failing to prevent Barbara Gordon from being crippled and the death of the second Robin.
    • This trope is also explicitly invoked when Bruce demands to know why Riddler had Clayface pose as Jason Todd. Riddler cites A Death in the Family as the greatest failure of Bruce's career. Rubbing it in Bruce's nose was vindictive payback for all of Riddler's own, many past failures and defeats at Bruce's hands.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • As Batman and Nightwing run off to stop the Riddler, we see pretty much every noteworthy Batmobile— from the comics, TV, or film— on display.
    • One Batman villain wonders to another (in this case, Catwoman to Poison Ivy) if they bleed green.
    • The opera which Bruce and Selina attend (and which a disguised Harley Quinn mangles) is Pagliacci, which a disguised Joker mangled in an episode of the 1966 series.
    • One of the first things Selina notices in the batcaves medical ward is the sheer amount of scar tissue on Batman's back, just as her Golden Age counterpart did in The Brave and the Bold 197.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: Catwoman's suit is zipped up to just before the breaking point.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Twice. They nearly succeed in getting Batman to break his Thou Shall Not Kill policy and later almost kill Batman outright. Both times, Two-Face sabotages the moment.
  • Neck Lift: Batman grabs Robin's collar and lifts him one handed to stop him from continuing to antagonize Catwoman. It's the first sign the fight is staged since Tim's collar and cape are detachable and Tim grabs Bruce's wrist instead of going for the release.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
    • Batman beats the everlasting shit out of the Joker after the latter allegedly killed Tommy Elliot.
    • Batman also does his best to stop Superman giving him one.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: All the Bat rogues to varying degrees throughout the story.
  • Oh, Crap!: Batman lets a huge one go when he sees Poison Ivy mind-controlling Superman.
  • Random Events Plot: For all its popularity, the story is infamously tough to summarize (with most promotional material focusing directly on the creative team), being for the most part a bunch of episodic villain-of-the-week battles that one could easily imagine happening even without a mysterious Chessmaster backing them all (and mostly off-panel, to boot).
  • Red Herring: The story drops several hints that Hush is a resurrected Jason Todd; the most obvious being Ra's al Ghul mentioning that someone bathed in his Lazarus Pit without his permission. However, it's later revealed that it was the Riddler who used the pit, in a successful attempt to cure his own cancer. Though Todd does make an appearance, Batman quickly deduces that it's just the shapeshifting Clayface in disguise.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Thomas Elliot, old money and childhood friend of Bruce Wayne. Completely new to this story. Invoked by Tim and Dick during Tommy’s funeral, but never brought up again.
  • Retcon: Subjected to one about itself not long after story’s end. Turns out it wasn’t just Clayface pretending to be Jason, it was Jason all along.
  • Rogues Gallery Showcase: The story follows a series of battles against the most iconic faces from Batman's rogues gallery, in an almost episodic format, Later on, it's revealed that they were all being manipulated by the Big Bad.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: Bruce's narration notes that Perry White is too good a reporter not to have figured out Clark's secret, but pretends otherwise. He then alludes to the strong possibility that Commissioner Gordon is doing the same to him.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Tommy. He tried to kill his parents at a young age in order to inherit their riches and because his father was an abusive monster and his mother a simpering money hungry lunatic. He only succeeded in killing his father, and, to avoid suspicion, didn't try again, only truly being orphaned when he smothered his raving senile mother in a fit of anger.
  • Sequel Hook: By the end of the story, the one mystery that is left unsolved is what happened to Jason Todd's corpse. This sets up his return as Red Hood.
  • Shout-Out: Some tombstones in the Gotham graveyard bear the names of famous characters from Marvel Comics. In the panel where Batman and the Scarecrow arrive in the cemetery, one of the graves has the inscription "R.I.P. Gene Grey"; and in the panel in which Catwoman attacks Jason Todd, a tombstone in the foreground has a partially obscured sentence: "In loving memory of Gw... St...", which Jim Lee has confirmed to be a reference to Gwen Stacy.
  • Spanner in the Works: Hush did not count on Harvey Dent reasserting himself and saving the day after being surgically cured of Two-Face. Specifically, Dent tips Gordon off to be near the opera house alley when Joker supposedly kills Tommy Elliot, which prevents Batman from breaking his morality code; and then saves Batman during the climactic final battle.
  • Spotting the Thread: Batman quickly notices that the supposed Jason Todd doesn’t call him “Bruce” once in his Motive Rant, not only indicating that he’s not actually Jason but whoever put him up to this didn’t trust this impostor with his secret identity.
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham: Discussed. Bruce mentions that Superman and Batman know to stay out of each other's cities.
  • The Team Benefactor: Deconstructed and a plot point. This is part of how Bruce figures out that Riddler, not Tommy Elliot, was the true mastermind. Yes, Elliot's wealth financed the entire operation, but that doesn't explain how he got the Arkham inmates onboard with the scheme. After all, they didn't know Elliot and they had no reason to trust him or his money. Bruce correctly concludes somebody in the rogues gallery had to have served as a liaison — somebody the other Arkham inmates did know, did trust, and who could vouch for Elliot. The subsequent analysis of Elliot's medical records reveals it was Nygma.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Toyed with. The Riddler, who is generally seen as one of the least competent Batman antagonists, turns out to be the mastermind who orchestrates the entire plot. Lampshaded by Batman, who states that Nigma was never a criminal genius. The Riddler's accomplishment in deducting Batman's identity and creating the scheme is muddied however when Batman states that he can't exactly tell anyone who Batman is as a) a riddle that everyone knows the answer to is worthless, and b) the second he blabbed Ra's Al Ghul would be hunting him down for the use of one of the Lazarus Pits. The only real ace the Riddler has up his sleeve as his final confrontation with Batman comes to a close is the location of the body of Jason Todd - and based on what we later learn, it's likely Nigma didn't even know.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: In a flashback, Thomas Wayne orders Bruce and Elliot to wait by his limousine while the three are in Metropolis. However, the kids witness the Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott duking it out with Icicle, and Elliot suggests they run away to watch the battle. After much insistence, Bruce relents and leaves the safety of the car. When the two return, Bruce's father is furious and expresses how concerned he was for the children, grounding them for the rest of the day.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Young Tommy Elliot is just a little too cool and cruel in the way he speaks and acts, especially towards young Bruce. In particular, he ferociously punches his friend when the latter playfully steals his necklace.
  • Tracking Device: Hush has implanted one in Bruce’s brain, which lets him monitor the hero at all times. It's implied that its reach exceeds several kilometers, since the villain manages to track Batman down while the latter is in Metropolis.
  • Verbal Tic: The Scarecrow speaks in nursery rhymes even as Batman beats his face in.
  • Villain Team-Up: As a hallmark of Loeb’s storytelling, the plot follows the Riddler and Hush as they convince all the major players to go along with their plan: Scarecrow gets to do more research, Harley gets to work with the Joker, and the Joker signs on when he hears they’re going to piss on Jason Todd’s lawn.
  • Vorpal Pillow: Tommy kills his mother by smothering her with a pillow.
  • Wham Line: Hush makes a statement about Tommy Elliot's mother's jade pendant proving his identity. "I told you once to give it back, or I'd hurt you so bad...Bruce."
  • Will They or Won't They?: Bruce and Selina ask themselves if their relationship will ever work out, with Bruce determining that it won't because of the ethical complications that come in hooking up with an incorrigible thief.
  • Witch with a Capital "B":
    • Huntress gets in a fight with some crooks where one of them calls her a "witch".
    • Poison Ivy and Catwoman trade insults during their fight. When the former gets the upper hand, she noticeably stutters before calling Selina a "witch".
    Poison Ivy: The plants don't like it when you touch their mother... Witch!