BATMAN: CACOPHONY (DC)
Written by Kevin Smith, drawn by Walt Flanagan
Collects Batman: Cacophony #1-3
I’ve gone on record as a big fan of both Kevin Smith and the podcast of his friends Walt Flanagan and Bryan Johnson, so it might seem like the comic Smith and Flanagan created together starring one of my favorite fiction comics would be a home run, right? Well, not so much.
The first time around when this book came out in issues, I was still at Wizard and read the first one or two issues. The problem I’ve found with Smith’s comics is that they’re wordy as hell and even if the dialogue is fantastic it can feel like trudging through the best marsh with your eyes. That’s what I realized the last time I tried to go back and read his Daredevil run again. Man, there’s a lot of words on that page. Cacophony doesn’t suffer from that too much because, as Smith reveals in his intro to the collection, he read a blog post someone did that pointed out how uncharacteristically verbose and melodramatic Batman came off in the first issue. Smith read this, agreed and went back and tightened up Batman’s words both spoken and thought, which was really necessary (you can read the original script to #3 in the back of the book along with reprints of the variant covers).
The other reason I stopped reading the book back then was that I couldn’t figure out where it fit in with continuity, a problem that I’m embarrassed to say has put me off of many a comic. And, hey, it doesn’t really matter, a good story is a good story and this is a good story. It’s not great by any means as the Smith-created villain Onomatopoeia breaks the Joker out of Arkham and Batman has to deal with both madmen. I’m actually kind of surprised this was just a three issue mini instead of being drawn out into six issues, but instead kept to a number of issues that actually serves the story and still makes a pretty good trade thanks to all the extras. Sure there’s the off color sex stuff like Joker dropping his pants and offering his butt virginity to Onomatopoeia, but what really made this a worthwhile story for me was the conversation at the end between Batman and a heavily medicated Joker who Batman saved from death. I’m used to Batman wondering whether he should kill Joker or let him die, but I dug them talking and Joker telling Batman that he’s crazy because Batman’s in the world. Bats doesn’t say it, but you know it kills him. I’m sure this conversation has happened before and I’ve read it, but this one gets bonus points for referencing Gran Morrison’s JLA story when Martian Manhunter jumps into Joker’s brain (so, continuity-wise, it takes place after that).
The writing’s fun and solid for the most part, but one of the big questions about the book has to focus on the quality of Flanagan’s artwork. I dug it. It’s not the best, most breathtaking artwork you’ve ever seen, but it’s solid and dynamic. Smith addresses the accusations of nepotism in the intro by saying that Flanagan got him into comics, so without him Smith’s comic career would probably not exist and possibly his movies. I say good on him for bringing his friend along for a wild ride and it’s not like Flanagan’s some scrub, he’s got chops, so it’s cool. The pair’s working on Batman: Widening Gyre now (I think) which I wasn’t curious about before but am more so now. I’ll give it a whirl once it’s all out in trade.