This week, Gotham City gets effed up. Hunting season opens for these DC/Looney Tunes crossovers and Elmer Fudd has drawn tags for the Batman. With Tom King and Lee Weeks taking aim, will this issue be a blast or will it miss the mark entirely?
Batman/Elmer Fudd #1
Written by Tom King
Illustrated by Lee Weeks
Colored by Lovern Kindzierksi
Lettered by Deron Bennett
After a chance meeting with billionaire Bruce Wayne, Elmer Fudd’s obsession quickly escalates into stalking Batman through the dark alleys and high-class social settings of Gotham City. Welcome to Bat Season! And the bonus Looney Tunes backup story features DC characters written by Tom King and artwork by Byron Vaughns.
I can handle a lot of things. I’ve made peace with Tom King writing Batman – it is what it is. I’m comfortable with a grim and gritty take on Elmer Fudd that feels like a long-forgotten reboot from a late-80s mature reader imprint (did anyone really expect otherwise when seeing who his DC dance partner would be?). Hell, I don’t even mind that Bugs Bunny is re-imagined as a buck-toothed junkie with thing for carrots. A one-shot like “Batman/Elmer Fudd” #1 is a supposed to be a sandbox to play in, and I have to admire the noir-tinged fervor with which King and Lee Weeks kick up the sand – especially given the fantastic, rain-soaked atmosphere Weeks captures. He’s alternately moody and fierce in the same way a thunderstorm surges between a steady drizzle and torrential waves. It’s powerful art.
The one thing I can’t handle, however, is 30 pages of narration written phonetically in Elmer’s (in)famous speech pattern. Fudd’s backstory gets translated to, “I weft the dirt when thewre was nothing ewlse to kiwl. Despewate for cash, despewate to eat, I found the onwy wowrk I could do…” And that’s just two panels. On one page.
I’m sorry, there’s a decent story buried in “Batman/Elmer Fudd” #1. There really is. And I get what the narration is trying to do. But it’s just too much. That tic is just so off-putting and distracting and grating and ultimately tough to read that it becomes a point of actual frustration because Weeks draws the hell out of a cape-swirling, emotive-behind-the-cowl Batman that really hasn’t been seen since Norm Breyfogle’s glory days.
It’s a shame that King leans so far into that narrative voice, because there’s a lot to like here storywise. He writes a throwback-style Dark Knight who seems to relish throwing down with ne’er-do-wells above all else, but also one who seems genuinely affected by the revelation of a love triangle between Fudd, Bruce Wayne, and Silver St. Cloud. Silver is really the only other tie to the DC side of things, but Weeks gets a chance to turn the likes of Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam,and even the Tasmanian Devil into the type of over-caricatured, dive-bar rogues that would fit seamlessly into an updated Dick Tracy comic strip.
And while King’s Batman seems to enjoy brawling, it’s Weeks who really revels in it. The pacing and composition of the fight scenes emphasizes velocity, impact and suspense, The action is choreographed like a second John Wick sequel. Week’s lines may be scratchy and his surroundings look rough-shod and worn, but it’s an evocative aesthetic with a flow of events that’s always clear to follow. And with the inventiveness to some of the set pieces, Elmer Fudd comes across as a legit, no-shit badass – especially in the silent, middle-third sequence. There’s a moment where Batman tries sneaking up on Fudd, which Weeks depicts through shadows splayed across a wall. Fudd acts unaware, nonchalant, shotgun pointed backwards and resting on his shoulder. But if we can see that shadow, then Fudd can too. So a tight-cropped panel, in line with that image, closes in on Fudd’s finger as it grazes the trigger. He fires once, backwards, before spinning around into the next panel and unloading another shot. Fudd and Batman trade blows, dodging the really lethal ones as you’d expect, but the urgency coming through in Weeks’s pencils is exhilarating.
Their inevitable team-up may be rote, but I’m willing to overlook that in that name of the expediency required for a one-shot. And while the overall trappings may seem a little past their grim and gritty sell-by date, there’s a certain mirroring of futility between Batman’s quest to defeat all crime by punching and Fudd’s utter ineptitude in the face of killing one weasley wabbit. So in that light, there’s a bit of clever criticism about Batman in general being delivered through King’s dour atmospherics. Then there’s the ultimate reveal of Silver St. Cloud’s fate, which gives her a great deal of agency over the events of the story. But more impressively, her actions take the air out of that damaging narrative trope that renders women helpless to the allure of dangerous men. All in all, there’s a lot that works in “Batman/Elmer Fudd” #1. And one big thing that just, really doesn’t.Continued below
Now, I apologize for getting so hung up on that one aspect. But I just can’t get past it. Sorry. That narration didn’t just feel like a pothole that a vehicle bottoms out over, it feels like a sinkhole that swallows a whole intersection and any cars coming near it. If King had left those extra Ws to Fudd’s dialog and sound effects – seriously, PWOPOWW when he fires his shotgun and PWUNCH when he chucks a right hook are truly inspired – I’d be writing a much different review. As it stands, the classic-feeling Batman, the surprisingly effective story arc, and the Breyfogle-on-amphetamines artwork of Lee Weeks almost achieve escape velocity away from that trap. Almost, but not quite.
Elmer Fudd: Year One isn’t a comic anyone in their right mind asked for, but it’s what we were so close to actually getting. And it was so close to actually working. Too bad close only counts in curling.
Final Verdict 5.5 – Week’s art is anything but – could be the best looking Bat-book of the year. Swuch a shwame.