I’ve written before – plenty of times – about new Batman books that are worth checking out, some of them involving strange and odd crossovers one wouldn’t expect to see. I’ve also written a bit about Tom King, the new “it” writer DC Comics has. Well, DC has finally gone and produced the final note on absurd crossovers with the Dark Knight.
Batman, meet Elmer Fudd.
As part of a wave of one-shot tales, DC has paired some of their characters with members of the Looney Tunes for oddball adventures, including Martian Manhunter/Marvin the Martian and Jonah Hex/Yosemite Sam. Most of these have been simple cash grabs. Batman/Elmer Fudd, however, is something more.
The main tale, written by King with art by Lee Weeks, feels straight out of classic Batman mythos. While some of the other books have tried to play into the absurdity of these team-ups, King tackles this as if it were just another issue in his Batman run. The result is evocative of some of the all-time great Batman stories, from Frank Miller’s Year One to many of the Denny O’Neil classics from the seventies.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the characterization of Fudd. Instead of being the bumbling fool trying in vain to hunt down Bugs Bunny, King brings a tragic quality to his tale – he grew up in the country, and after hunting all he could turned to a life as a hitman to hunt a new kind of game. When tragedy strikes his one true love – a figure longtime Batman fans will recognize – he begins a revenge-fueled mission to find justice for her.
By all accounts, this idea shouldn’t work. Just typing all of that out makes me sound like a loon myself. But King’s ability to bring humanity to any character he writes makes Fudd’s story heartbreaking. Even with him regaling us with hard-boiled lines through his lisp.
This is where the added joy of reading this comes into play. King doesn’t sideline the tropes of the Looney Tunes to make this story work – he leans into them. Porky’s Bar becomes the hotbed for these cameos, and there are plenty to be had. I won’t list out all of the characters that show up, as part of the fun of these scenes is to see how King translates them into the world of Gotham City, but picking them out from the shadow cast by Batman is entertaining.
The enjoyment reaches its zenith when Batman shows up at Porky’s at the climax of the story. What follows is a sequence that sees King poke fun (and offer up plenty of puns) at the inclusion of the Tune characters. There were a handful of lines that made me burst out laughing as I read them. That acknowledgement is what elevates this beyond other crossovers and makes it something special.
None of this would be possible without Weeks’ contribution to the book. His art helps to bring this story back to the aesthetic of those seventies Batman tales that returned the character to being a crusader of the night. There were plenty of times that it felt like Weeks was producing an homage to greats like Bob Kane, Frank Miller, and Andy Kubert as he rendered Gotham as a murky, rain-soaked city of shadows.
Weeks also pulls double-duty by making the fusion of DC and Looney Tunes work. Another artist might have leaned too heavily towards one way or another. Weeks strikes just enough of a balance that it never feels awkward to have such disparate universes colliding. Plus, he hides even more winks at the history of all the characters involved in the backgrounds. As fantastic as King’s writing is, Weeks deserves just as much of the credit for making this work.
The only downside to this masterpiece is the price. The main story in it of itself doesn’t last the full length of the book, so asking five dollars (above the usual four) is a bit much for DC to ask. They do provide a backup tale that’s more in line with the Looney Tunes aesthetic, which is also written by King and drawn by Byron Vaughns. While it will please fans of classic Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny, adding Batman into that universe instead, it still doesn’t justify the extra dollar. A minor complaint, but one to address nonetheless.
If the only problem I have with this book is how much is being charged for it, then there’s definitely something great going on. King brings his mind for character work to incorporate absurd cartoons into Batman’s world in a heartfelt and moving manner. With Weeks drawing the hell out of it, Batman/Elmer Fudd might just be the best Batman issue of the year. Buy this book now.
The Batman/Elmer Fudd Special is available now in comic shops and digital retailers.