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Batman: Cacophony #1 Review

Batman: Cacophony #1 review by Armeka Jackson

Written by Kevin Smith
Art by Walt Flanagan

As talented a filmmaker Kevin Smith is, around comic book circles he is infamously known as one of the most chronically late writers in either company. His runs on Spider-Man have been either completed by other writers, or never started at all. His Daredevil/Bullseye story was put on hold indefinitely after issue one. Over at DC, his status is somewhat more positive. He kicked off a 15-issue run of Green Arrow, bringing Ollie Queen back from the dead and introducing his new female sidekick, Mia Dearden. He also created a villain named Onomatopoeia, a skilled gunsman with a neat little gimmick of making the sound of whatever is happening around him. In Batman: Cacophony, Ono has definitely moved up in status of opponents, with both A and D list Batman villains in the supporting cast.

The story begins with a needlessly wordy narration (a Kevin Smith trademark) on how the Clown Prince of Crime's laughing gas is being sold around Gotham as a new method for kids to get high, sometimes fatally. The mother of one of the latest victims hires Floyd Lawton, known as Deadshot, to break into Arkham Asylum and kill the Joker in his own padded cell, despite the fact that he confesses he has nothing to do with the drug these days, is angered that his lethal creation is being used for cheap highs, and insists he "rarely" kills children. Before Lawton can finish his job, Joker is saved and broken out of jail by Onomatopoeia, leaving Joker free to confront the man responsible for peddling his laughing gas, Greek god-themed villain Maxie Zeus.

A character that imitates regular sounds could only exist in comic book form, and therein lies the fun and brilliance of Onomatopoeia. Though he plays only a small part in this issue, he's lethal, and downright creepy. Seeing a villain like this in any other medium would convey images of the foolish character in the Police Academy movies that made sounds with his mouth, much to the delight of his fellow cops.

It's common in the world of comics for writers and artists to put their own spin on even the most iconic characters, and Kevin Smith definitely does a number to Batman's world. It's clear that subtlety is not one of Smith's strong points in comics. I'm not so much disturbed as to the Joker now being somewhat of a necrophilic sexual deviant as I am curious as to how DC actually let some scenes in this book get past its censors. From the Joker offering ‘himself' to Onomatopoeia as payment for breaking him out of prison, to Victor Zsasz finding a place on his "little Zsasz" to mark his latest victim, the book is more in the adult tone of Miller's All-Star Batman and Robin than Dini's Detective Comics. Even Batman himself is giving some liberties in his thought and attitude, with mixed results. It's highly doubtful that Batman would have a Yiddish thought as he comes crashing through a roof window to interrupt Zsasz's self mutilation, but it works in Smith's Gotham. Walt Flanagan draws a great (if somewhat effeminate) Joker and Zsasz, and I loved his depiction of the Joker's demented henchmen. A few panels in particular have characters with such enlarged heads it makes the serious scenes somewhat comical, but that is a minor complaint. His expressive faces on all his characters make this book stand out from other Bat books.

Though it's far from perfect, and unfortunately takes place pre-Batman R.I.P., Cacophony is an inventive story with Kevin Smith's humor and wit, for better or worse.

Rating: 7

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