By Tom King, Lee Weeks, Lovern Kindzierski, Byron Vaughns, Carrie Strachan, and Deron Bennett
Okay, Okay, let’s be honest…having DC do crossover comics with another available Warner Bros. intellectual property, Looney Tunes, sounds like one of the most ludicrous cheap stunts. Yet, seeing the preview pages for Batman/Elmer Fudd quickly changed my cynical and dismissive tune. Lee Weeks and Lovern Kindzierski’s artwork looked devilishly noir and in conjunction with the inner dialog captions by writer Tom King, seemed to take the goofy concept, flip it on its head and take it deathly serious. And that’s exactly what they did.
King frames the story within the hard-boiled noir thriller context, which makes perfect sense for Batman and worked very well in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but the question was how would the clueless hunter, Elmer Fudd, fit within the framework? Well, he’s a highly skilled hitman! With Weeks’ design for the hapless turned formidable Looney Tune, Fudd is transformed into a fascinating, intense character. Elmer sets his sights on Bruce Wayne after a wily low-life, by the name of Bugs “the Bunny”, claims that the person who murdered his love, is none other than the renowned playboy. The name triggers something within the gunman and begins to stalk his prey…little did he know that the hunter would, of course, become the hunted.
Lee Weeks and Lovern Kindzierski’s work on this title cannot be praised enough. Looking at the title splash page, one knows exactly what this creative team is going for. There is so much atmosphere and texture laden within every page, every panel. The background architecture is so sharp and well-defined, and so carefully rendered. Even with scenes that could be presented as mundane in lesser hands, Weeks’ line art details every crease on a character’s face, every drop of rain from the ongoing storm, every fold in a shirt or dress. There is just so much to observe and absorb. Then, the real magic comes in with Kindzierski’s color work. The shading sinks readers into focus and deepens every illustration. The shadows cast on character’s faces convey the deep decay and darkness these characters thrive in and sets the noir/somber mood so beautifully. By the way, this is just discussing the first act of the comic and all this is truly an indicator of the eerie, yet dreamy artwork done by these truly talented pros throughout the rest of the book. One panel of Batman and Elmer standing side-by-side will stay with me. They understood the genre/tone Tom King was going for and absolutely nailed it!
The narrative is fairly straightforward. Readers familiar with pulp fiction will easily see where the plot is going and some beats are hard to swallow, even the ending feels rushed and a little haphazard. Yet, all that can be overlooked, maintaining that suspension of disbelief, due to the atmosphere. Tom King is able to write so well in the character’s voices that, in combination with the haunting illustrations, he creates a strong bond between the audience and the content. His complicated and tortured take on the Fudd is really something to behold and honestly may make readers want to see the character return in future stories. Definitely one of the other highlights of the comic is how King takes anthropomorphism a step further with the Looney Tunes characters and literally humanizes them. He highlights all the key Looney players and shows how imperfect, fractured, and tragic they can be if viewed through a different lens. It’s absolutely fascinating to see this presented and begs for further exploration!
The old adage “never judge a book by its cover” rings absolutely true in this case. Hopefully, this creative team will work again soon because they clearly have creative chemistry that pays off in spades. This is a comic that has no right to be as good as it is. Is it perfect? No, but it’s done in such earnestness and with real talent, one can’t help but fall under its spell. Readers won’t make that left turn in Albuquerque with this title.