Saturday, July 7, 2012

Batman: Cacophony Thoughts


It's no secret that I'm a fan of Kevin Smith's work and as well as a fan of Batman. The fact that it took me three years to get around to reading Batman: Cacophony is nothing short of an amazing case of procrastination, but I've finally picked up the TPB and laid my grubby fingers on every page. At the end of the three issue arch, I have to say Cacophony is satisfying, if not good, but not amazing.

Having spent most of his career as a comedic filmmaker, Smith could easily find himself out of place as a comic book writer, but he has continually impressed me with how well he has assimilated his writing style into the books he writes. That said, in Batman Cacophony his comedic voice sticks out and feels out of place. I don't know if it is because jokes often fall behind the voice of the Joker or because Smith has a tendency to write referential material that immediately hinder the longevity of the joke's relevancy, but something doesn't fit in when he starts making references to Lethal Weapon or the Bodyguard. When Joker delivers these bits, I hear Kevin Smith's voice and not the character's.

Apart from that, Cacophony tells another interesting tale of the dynamic between Batman and the Joker while throwing in a new character, Onomatopoeia. Joker breaks out of Arkham Asylum yet again, with the help of our new villain and seeks to take revenge against small-time drug peddler and wannabe Greek god, Maxie Zeus. Zeus, looking to turn a profit, has taken the Joker Venom and turned it into the next hip street drug and, of course, the Joker doesn't take too kindly to it. Batman swoops in between the two not realizing a third party, Onomatopoeia, wants in on the action. What starts out as a routine battle between classic arch-nemeses turns into something a little less conventional. 

Batman: Cacophony is, at its core, another love story between Batman and Joker. Another examination of their relationship, if you will. In this tale Batman and Joker have almost grown too comfortable with each other so Onomatopoeia is thrown in to spice things up. Awkwardly enough, Cacophony could almost be a parable about threesomes, although it would take an unorthodox and odd angle. Still, coming from Smith, I wouldn't put the notion past him.

Onomatopoeia is an a fairly fresh addition to the crowded world of villains who stays true to his name; often mimicking the sounds made durning the action. His dialogue consist entirely along the line of "pow" or "zing." It is hard to peg any deeper personality on him, yet Onomatopoeia is a charmingly clever play on comic conventions.

Walt Flanagan, close friend of Smith's, pencilled the book, but it certainly doesn't look like a case of friendly favors. I might not be a fan of Flanagan's Joker, but I like his style. It can have an other-worldly exaggerated look to it, but is grounded in a fairly conventional art which keeps it distinct without being distracting. To anyone who doubts the merits of the book based on Smith's relationship to Flanagan, your worries are unfounded. I see plenty of artists working on a regular basis with the big-boy publishers who fall flat compared to this book.

From a visual point of view, Cacophony works and the story, while not new territory, is good. Still, Smith puts a little too much of his own voice into places that it doesn't fit. Like I said, I am a fan of Kevin Smith and Batman, but I'm not sure I'm a fan of Kevin Smith as Batman. Batman: Cacophony is worth a read for those who enjoy both, but there have been higher points in Smith's comic book outings.


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