With a bibliography that includes work by masters of mysticism and magic realism like Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, the world of Batman is no stranger to the surreal. So it’s not all that surprising to hear that the Dark Knight’s been taken down that strange and wonderful road all over again.
It might, however, be a little shocking to hear that it happens in a Looney Toons crossover.
Somehow, against all odds, the creative team of Tom King, Lee Weeks and Lovern Kindzierski have created an heir to famous existential character meditations like Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? in the pages of....well, Batman/Elmer Fudd #1.
The one shot, titled -- again, not a joke -- “Pway For Me” is a zoomed-in, meticulously crafted noir classic, complete with rain slicked neon lights, a seedy dive bar, a murder mystery, and a femme fatale. It’s also completely unironically written in Fudd’s iconic r-to-w speech impediment, which only serves to add a level of unbridled self-aware absurdity to an otherwise completely earnest and straight-faced story about broken hearted heroes.
To make it even more surreal, the world King and Weeks crafted for the story is populated by “real” incarnations of other instantly recognizable Looney Toons icons. Bugs Bunny, re-imagined as a buck-toothed, carrot eating Joker-analogue, sits forlorn and drinking at a bar which just so happens to be tended by the round-faced, stout, stuttering owner Porky. Behind them, a suit-and-spectacle-clad humanized Foghorn Leghorn sits playing poker with the biker incarnation of Yosemite Sam, a sullen and troubled looking Marvin the Martian mumbles to himself about his plans to blow up the Earth, a mohawked bruiser with a crazed look in his eye and a shirt that reads “TAZ” throws some brutal punches in a bar fight.
You get the idea.
This is a version of Gotham City that exists in a nebulous sort of crossroads between worlds; strange and almost eerie thanks to Weeks’ heavy inks and Eisner-flavored compositions. Kindzierski’s cool, limited palette coloring elevates Weeks’ art in a way that makes the book a veritable haunted house, populated by the ghosts of Saturday morning cartoons -- But that’s not to say Batman/Elmer Fudd is a dark comic. Sure, there are a lot of elements here that could have easily prompted it to take a swan dive over the edge into grim-and-gritty dourness (it's a murder-mystery at it's core, after all) but it never comes to that.
Instead, if anything, Batman/Elmer Fudd takes off over the cliff and just keeps going, Wile E. Coyote style -- and it never stops or slows to look down.
It’s rare for anything, comic or otherwise, to strike such a perfect balance between tongue-in-cheek parody and earnest meditation, but this one does. It’s goofy, it's over the top, it's completely aware of its own absurdity, but most importantly, it's having a blast sharing this story. It loves its characters, it loves its art, it loves the weird and wonderful world it’s created -- and it wants you, as a reader, to love it, too.
Batman/Elmer Fudd #1 is, without a doubt, the most fun you’ll have with a comic this week.