Guest reviewer Daniel Bean ker-pows his way through Kevin Smith's take on Batman!
Written by: Kevin Smith Pencilled by: Walt Flanagan Inked by: Sandra Hope
First things first- I’m a big Kevin Smith fan. I can find something good about all of his films (yes, even Jersey Girl), but I went into Batman: Cacophony with concerns after reading his Daredevil work a couple of years ago.I enjoyed the Daredevil series, but thought it was too wordy for a vigilante comic book, and typical of Smith that there were a series of self-referential monologues where a balls-out last act showdown should be.Happily, Smith seems to have taken note of the middling reactions to his Daredevil, as this is less of a problem with Cacophony.
The action starts immediately, as Deadshot breaks into Arkham Asylum to kill the Joker. After some comical back-and-forth exposition between hitman and victim, the mysterious Onomatopoeia arrives, shoots Deadshot in the head, gives Joker a briefcase full of money, and sends him on his way.Though more action-packed than his film work, this is classic Smith. In the first ten pages of the book, we get satire on the economy, some over-written but funny dialogue from both Joker and Deadshot, and even an anal sex joke (this is Kevin Smith, after all), as well as break-ins, explosions, and shoot-outs.
Batman’s own introduction comes as he interrupts a late night killing spree from Mr Zsasz. Here we get a taste of Smith’s wordiness, with the Dark Knight’s inner monologues doing a little too much to explain what’s happening and how he feels. This, incidentally, becomes less of a problem in the last two issues of this three parter, as Smith realised he was trying a little too hard and pared back his script to let Walt Flanagan’s art speak for itself wherever possible.Anyone familiar with Smith’s movies will recognise Walt Flanagan’s name. A childhood friend of Smith and the one who introduced him to comic books, he’s written a couple of comic books himself (Karney and War of the Undead for IDW), and is currently working on Smith’s follow up to Cacophony, Batman: The Widening Gyre.Flanagan’s art in general reminds me of Jim Lee’s work on Hush- dynamic with some great splash pages, and an unfussy panel layout. But some of the characters occasionally wander into Matt Wagner territory – a little too neat and clean. Saying that, Flanagan’s misshapen Bruce Wayne is one I’d not rush to see again, although Joker’s henchmen look like they have come straight from Tod Browning’s Freaks.
As for Cacophony’s Big Bad, Onomatopoeia, Smith’s Batman sums him up best with the line: “They’re running out of gimmicks and kinks, these idiots.” Like the POW, BOOM, and BLAM bubbles from the Adam West series, Onomatopoeia is a word that imitates the sound it describes.It’s an unusual characteristic, but means the only lines the villain of Cacophony has are imitations of sounds described elsewhere in the panels, and it makes him kind of a goof. In a book where partygoers are set on fire, hookers are murdered, and a school filled with innocent children is demolished, having an antagonist imitate a police siren or flushing toilet serves only to lessen the impact and remove you from the story for a cheap laugh.It’s this promise of brutality delivered with a tickle that serves to remind the reader that Cacophony is the work of Kevin Smith.
Late in the book, Batman and a temporarily sane (ish) Joker hold a lengthy conversation discussing their motives and desires. Alan Moore did it in The Killing Joke, Christopher Nolan did it in The Dark Knight, and so it figures that Smith would want to tackle it in Cacophony, just in case DC doesn’t ask him back.And for a while, it’s good. It’s a mirror of the earlier Joker/Deadshot scene, and Smith explores the relationship between his leads. Granted, it’s nothing new, but the artwork looks better than it did in issue one, in particular a shot of Batman seemingly lamenting his role as Dark Knight.Then Joker takes over, and it becomes great. Smith steps it up a gear, and you feel Batman’s frustration and disappointment as he hears what he hoped he wouldn’t. It would look great on film, and reminds you how good a writer Smith can be, as he leaves a mute panel for a meaningful beat.
Then he drops in a knob gag.
In his introduction to the collected edition, Smith proudly claims that Cacophony isn’t the best Batman story he’s capable of, but a good warm up for it. It’s a strange boast, almost apologetic, but judging from the improvement in writing seen in just three issues on this story, I can’t wait to read The Widening Gyre from start to finish, and see if it’s all Smith claims it will be.
Extras:Some variant or unused cover art, Walt Flanagan sketches, and the original script for issue three.