By Shawn Warner
There have been some strange pairings or ‘Odd Couples’ since team-ups entered the collective consciousness, in fact DC Comics has mashed their top tier characters with those of Hanna Barbara’s storied past and now June has seen the publisher do the same with the Looney Tunes gang. Since DC and Looney Tunes are both properties of Warner Brothers it would make sense, at least commercially that, to paraphrase Spyder from Powerman 5000, these two worlds eventually would collide. Not too long ago the Looney Tunes characters graced the covers of the upper echelon of the New 52, at least variant covers, but now it’s time for actual crossover team up action between serious super heroes and largely large headed cartoon characters. Sure, it’s happened in the past; Scooby Doo meets Batman and Robin and the like but, again this is the big time and mostly not for laughs.
Let’s face it, it sounds like an obvious money grab fueled by nostalgia for these old cartoon characters. Not so fast there cowboy; one man, well two men changed my mind in a hard and fast fashion, Tom King and Lee Weeks. My love for Tom King is well known throughout the land and Lee Weeks is an amazing artist so I had faith going into this one, but holy crap these guys turned out something seriously special. King had his doubts as he thought the whole thing was a joke devised by DC head honcho Dan Didio, who King says couldn’t get through the entire pitch without laughing. Weeks on the other hand saw a kind of Twin Peaks via John Waters coolness after thinking on this seemingly ill-conceived masterpiece for a bit.
Originally King wanted to write a full length graphic novel, possibly his defining opus while on break from his insanely brilliant and popular Batman run; well folks, he just about accomplished that in this under the radar gem. King, never at a loss for engrossing and ground-breaking plot pitches ultimately decided to go with Weeks’ William S. Burroughs style noir pulp crime fiction. This was the perfect style to bring the whole mash-up together. The pair hit all the dime store novel beats; from the moody lighting and superbly dark rendering of setting and characters from Lee Weeks recalling the amazing art of David Mazzucchelli from Batman: Year One, to King nailing the hard-bitten dialogue and razor sharp, dated to perfection one liners that would make Spillane green with envy, that’s how good this book is.
From the opening pages Fudd comes across as an embittered, heartbroken shamble of a man, lost, lonely and tormented, but with a mission, perhaps his last, to avenge his murdered love. King captures this Fudd in precise detail down to his lisp addled vocabulary, which like Irvine Welsh does when writing in his infamous Scottish brogue, King spells out by the letter. So, we can’t help but become Fudd as we read his tale of love and vengeance. Weeks adds more than a touch of reality to his renderings of the Looney Tunes characters. The likenesses are there, however altered a bit to go with the noir tropes that become the life of this story; Bugs is a buck-toothed, bag of bones in an ill-fitting suit, Porky is a stocky fellow who appears to be suffering from hydrocephalus, Taz is a crazed Mohawked punk rocker and Foghorn Leghorn even makes a quick cameo as a zoot-suited pimp, “I say, I say”. It is as if Hunter S. Thompson’s muse, having nowhere to go, made a visit to King and Weeks for some hijinks and shenanigans.
The source of conflict between Batman and Fudd begins with a shoddy set up of Bruce Wayne by a former mutual paramour but, deepens to include the Dark Knight Detective’s staunch anti-gun ethics versus Fudd’s stance as a prolific hunter, these are the core issues that define these two characters; they were both created by the gun. The story works on so many levels; the humor is hilarious because it doesn’t sell itself as funny, hell at times it reads with more heart and dark emotion than Edgar Allan Poe, that allows the drama to germinate and have this sort of organic realness that is lacking in so much of what’s on the comic book racks recently.
Lee Weeks’ art is as subtle as a shotgun blast and equally effective in blowing one’s mind and popping one’s eyeballs. Weeks plays the tone of his gorgeous art completely straight, there are no real sight gags to speak of, but that doesn’t matter at all, the work is so beautiful and emotive a gag would be about as effective as a one-legged man in a scooter race. Lee Weeks is one of those artist that always delivers, his work is as solid as they come but, this time he outdoes himself and everyone else in the field; if you think I’m gushing wait until your eyes are treated to these pages and you will be gushing right along with me. Weeks and King include enough Easter Eggs to make any Looney Tunes historian happy But, Weeks personal favorite hidden gem is a homage to the Boy Wonder; its subtle but when you see it you will appreciate the level of creativity that went into this seemingly ill-conceived masterpiece. That's all folks.
Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Lee Weeks
Colorist: Lovern Kindzierski
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Publisher: DC Comics