Monday, 17 November 2008

[77] Batman: Cacophony #1, by Kevin Smith and Walter Flanagan

I bought a couple of comics this week, so I'll write a few rough comments on them. More to come later, but I'll start with this...


Batman: Cacophony (1 of 3), by Kevin Smith and Walter Flanagan

This week, Kevin Smith had two new properties released in the UK. Zack and Miri Make a Porno seems to have been reviewed pretty badly, at least according to the few reviews I've read. Batman: Cacophony seems to have fared much better, so that's something to lean on. I've not read any of Smith's previous comics work (such as his run on Daredevil, or Green Arrow), so this is something new for me.

The most striking thing about this comic, I'm sad to say, is the cover. A moody, brooding depiction of the Batman, a poised predator atop the Arkham Asylum gateway, drenched in darkly evocative red and black colouring. It's a wonderful piece of art from Adam Kubert, and I'd like to say that it hints at the tone of the story inside, but I'd only be half-right.

Smith's writing does exhibit dark tendencies, but for the most part of this issue he relies on sharp dialogue and black humour. The basic story involves Deadshot breaking into Arkham Asylum to assassinate the Joker. However, he is thwarted by Onomatopoeia (a goofy creation of Smith's own, who only speaks in, you guessed it, sound effects like 'Fwoosh' or 'Fa-thud'), who is on a mission to break Joker *out* of Arkham. It is in these early scenes that the writing is at its wittiest, and, at times, silliest. The Joker is an intellectual-jester, closer to his cartoon-y depictions than most writers go for in the current climate. He reads Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, and calls it a 'knee-slapper'; he rants and raves that his Joker Venom has been diluted and become a trendy drug, exclaiming '[it's] supposed to be feared, not "rocked" at a "kegger"!'. Smith works overtime to put the 'joke' in a character who has become more menacing than amusing of late, and it mostly works. He also shoehorns in bits of toilet humour, with generous and liberal references to poo, anal sex, merkins and Joker wanting 'to one day murder Batman and defile his carcass sexually', which works less well (I suppose it depends if you enjoyed those Smith's diversions into gutter-humour in his films).

This hit-and-miss aspect in the writing is tipped in a more positive direction by the short scene involving the Batman hunting down and apprehending Mr Zsasz. Mostly told in a dual narration, from Zsasz and Batman's perspectives, it is dark and moving. Zsasz has killed his latest victims, and is about to move onto their children before Batman arrives. What is at its core a simple Batman-saves-the-day episode is given an emotional punch, as he projects his own trauma onto that of Zsasz's victims. It's nothing ground-breaking, but it shows a window of emotional and psychological depth that is missing from the rest of the comic.

I've barely mentioned the art, because Walter Flanagan (who has appeared in bit roles in various Smith films) does a good, but quite forgettable job. He uses a cartoon-y style that fits the more humorous diversions of the story, but there is good use of shadow and shade to create a moody atmosphere.

I suppose that sums up my response to this first issue. It's good, it's entertaining. It's not essential in the slightest. Of course, it's an opening issue, and there are two more to come, so maybe it will pick up.

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