Comic: "Batman Cacophony # 1-3"
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Kevin Smith
Artist: Walt Flanagan

Reviewer: Protoclown
Posted: 3/16/2009

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.

Overall rating: WholeHalf
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

The Mighty One
Mar 17th, 2009, 03:36 PM
I don't read comic books but I have watched many of Smith's movies. The thing about Smith is that he sucks at writing any sort of emotion or character development. The only thing he ever does right is fast, punchy, crude dialogue. It doesn't surprise me that he would fail with Batman.
Funky Dynamite
Mar 17th, 2009, 04:48 PM
I almost stopped reading after the first sentence. When they pitched Onomatopeia as a villain, did the editors think it was a great idea, or was it more like "eh, whatever. We haven't done something too similar already"?
The Magnificent Bastard
Mar 17th, 2009, 06:22 PM
I love Kevin Smith, but if I'd much rather read the Oni Press comics based on his movies, than see him take over an established character like Batman.
Last of the Time Lords
Mar 18th, 2009, 12:58 AM
I haven't read this, and probably won't. I just wanted to mention that as silly as Onomatopeia sounds, he actually came off as pretty cool in Smith's "Sounds of Violence", the follow up to Quiver, where he first appeared.

Not cool enough to deserve a spot as one of Batman's foes, when he has so many great ones that don't get enough appearances, but cool enough that I'm glad he isn't totally forgotten.
Mar 18th, 2009, 03:40 AM
I want to see a Longbox article about this.
By Hawkings Chair!
Mar 18th, 2009, 07:01 AM
The art sucked, the dialogue sucked, the whole premise of the comic sucked.
You gave this one a pickle and a quarter too much Protoclown.
I'd rather reread Ultimates 3 than this dross.

Broke my a heart a little bit to write that. I'm a big Kevin Smith fan and I think
Batman is the greatest comic character ever. BUT Smith seriously cocked up here.
Poor show big man, poor show
Amicable Herculean
Mar 18th, 2009, 12:59 PM
Terrible book. I did like how it had Maxie Zeus,though. Guy doesn't get enough respect.
Mar 18th, 2009, 07:35 PM
Even Kevin himself will tell you that he is only good at writing dialogue. I think the charm of it is that no one talks like that in real life.

I wanna see a future Longbox column on this. Get to it!
The Magnificent Bastard
Mar 18th, 2009, 10:37 PM
What are you talking about? The way Kevin Smith writes dialogue is pretty much exactly the way my friends and I talk. Especially, at work.
The Mighty One
Mar 18th, 2009, 10:57 PM
^It's also the way characters in a Drama don't talk. His style is great for his mostly laid back Comedies but fails in a Dramatic setting. I push forward Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Jersey Girl as proof.
Mar 19th, 2009, 12:10 AM
I hate to say this, being a fan of Kevin Smith's stand-up and many of his movies, but it seems like he's losing talent with each movie, comic, or project that he makes. Compare Clerks to Clerks 2. Compare his Green Arrow to this travesty. It's like he just doesn't care. Not that this is a revelation or anything...
Mar 19th, 2009, 10:30 AM
I loved the first issue.But it went downhill from there.
Fookin' up planets!
Mar 20th, 2009, 09:52 AM
poor, poor Kevin Smith
Mar 20th, 2009, 09:13 PM
Bustin makes me feel good
Mar 21st, 2009, 11:10 PM
I second the 'Blam!'
Forum Virgin
Apr 17th, 2010, 03:04 AM
On Smith's site, before he made Cacophony, he insinuated via covers that he was going for the early 80s style Joker. Personally, this Joker reminds me of the Dennis O'Neil Joker from the old Azrael series, the Bill Willingham Joker from Salvation Run, the Dixon/Nolan Joker from Devil's Advocate, The Legends of the Dark Knight series Joker, etc.

The biggest mess-ups were Joker with facial hair (the man simply does not grow the stuff) & his saying he'd love to see Batman dead.

But goddamn if his Joker isn't the funniest Joker ever written. & the gay humor is something I've always welcomed from the Joker. He's not the only one who's done it.

I'm a huge Kevin Smith fan & the leader of a Joker fanclub, & rated BC as the best Joker story of 2009.