Comic: "Batman Cacophony # 1-3"
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Kevin Smith
Artist: Walt Flanagan
Plot: Onomatopoeia, a hero-hunting villain who speaks only in sound effects (yes, seriously), decides to take on Batman by rescuing the Joker from Arkham Asylum and using him to draw Batman out, where he will then make an attempt on Batman's life. I think better men (like Crazy Quilt) have tried.
Review: Let me start off by saying that I'm a big Kevin Smith fan. It helps to know that to put this review in context. And much as I think it's awesome that Kevin Smith and his longtime pal Walt Flanagan (who's had cameo roles in his movies and runs the Jay and Silent Bob Secret Stash comic shop) teamed up to do a Batman comic, this series was not only insanely disappointing--it's downright bad (potentially deserving of a future Longbox column).
Kevin Smith is a very gifted writer when it comes to dialog--his characters hilariously banter, tossing pop culture references back and forth in dialog that flows extremely well. If you're any kind of geek at all, it's hard not to identify with or appreciate it. However, it's clear that Smith is not so good at showing restraint when handling more taciturn characters such as Batman. Batman should not talk to the Joker about his feelings in long, drawn-out outpourings of emotion. That's just...wrong.
And unfortunately there's all kinds of wrong to be found here. Smith's take on the Joker is one of the more annoying ones I've ever seen, drawing more from the wacky comics of the 1950s than more recent incarnations like the animated series, the last couple decades of comics, or The Dark Knight. When he's giddily cheerleading the "super-villain team-up" with Onomatopoeia (more on him later), or throwing out references to Lethal Weapon he comes off more stupid than insane, more childish than menacing. When Onomatopoeia rescues him from Arkham and Joker drops trou and offers up his anal cherry to return the favor (no joke), I had to wonder what the fuck Smith was thinking. And then after "teaming up" with Onomatopoeia and immediately getting stabbed by his so-called partner, I thought "the real Joker would have seen that coming, and would have stabbed him first." Surely, this version of the Joker must be a Skrull. Except the Skrulls are over in Marvel Comics. But I'm sticking with that theory anyway, because it's the only thing that makes sense.
Most distressing of all is that Smith, a long-time comic fanatic, clearly does not understand the relationship between Batman and the Joker. After Batman saves Joker's life instead of pursuing Onomatopoeia, he shows up at the hospital (in disguise as Matches Malone!) for a heart-to-heart with a drugged-into-lucidity Joker. Asking "do you really want to kill me?" the creepily black-bearded Joker (he'd been in a coma) answers with an emphatic "Yes!" The only, ONLY way their relationship works is if the Joker does not want to kill Batman. He wants to keep him alive, to fuck with him, because if he didn't have Batman around, he'd immediately be bored out of his mind. The two of them give each other purpose, and it's also about the only way to maintain years of continuity without making the Joker look completely non-threatening and incompetent. He goes after the people Batman cares about, killing and maiming to his heart's content, but never, ever does he go after Batman with the intent to actually kill (he always gives Batman an out). Most writers get this. The Dark Knight really got this. How Smith managed to miss (or ignore) something so obvious is completely beyond me.
And as for Onomatopoeia, when he first showed up in the pages of Green Arrow as a gimmicky, cheesy villain, it sort of worked. He almost killed Green Arrow's son, and since ol' GA has never quite been an A-lister, a villain like that sort of fit into the book. The problem is that Onomatopoeia's gimmick gets old very fast, so he's not much good beyond a single story-arc. A villain who we know nothing about whose only dialog consists of sound effects is unsurprisingly not a very compelling or interesting character. I had hoped that we'd at least learn something more about the character in this story arc--but we didn't learn shit, aside from the fact that he has a wife and kids. I officially don't give a shit.
Flanagan's art is not the greatest, but it really hearkens back to the work of the 70s, so it has a certain sort of simplistic charm that a lot of today's hyper-realistic, super-gritty artwork lacks. My only real complaint is that his depictions of the Joker's facial expressions were inconsistent.
I would not recommend this book to any Kevin Smith fan. You're better off just enjoying his movies, or checking out his run on Green Arrow or Daredevil. I guess the only good thing about this story was that it was mercifully only three issues.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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