Thursday, March 31, 2011
It’s been enough time that you should have picked this comic up and read it by now. If not, shame on you. This comic is certainly an original idea, it’s wildly inappropriate, and while it’s not for everyone those it is for will find it a soothing balm to their soul wounds and chromosomal deficiencies. I know I've been waiting and now, Butcher Baker has arrived, and nothing will ever be the same. This is a superhero with a focus on the word super and this debut is an absolute blast.
Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker #1
Written by Joe Casey
Art by Mike Huddleston
This is the comic all those Image teasers were about a few months back. One teaser image a day was released for a month and some of them didn’t even seem to match. Then we got word of this comic and it all, almost, made sense. This is Joe Casey doing something completely off the wall and when that happens it’s usually best to keep an eye on proceedings.
Casey created Automatic Kafka a few years back and that comic is a whole bag of messed up fun. It’s weirdly dense and hyperaware and one of those comics you absolutely must read purely because something so creative deserves to be read. Even if it’s not for you, you must know these things are out there. Butcher Baker is very much a spiritual companion to that title, though still very different.
Butcher Baker is the all American hero – if your view of America is that it’s a sex fuelled capitalist dichotomy of the takers and those who get things taken from them. Money, power, sex, food, this is the currency of the world and you have to be strong to survive. Butcher Baker is the strongest there is, to steal a quote from one Marvel hero, and so he can survive as well as thrive. He’s like The Comedian let loose, an American id of base urges and deep belly laughs. Butcher Baker is the man a superhero would be, but it’s not quite on the parody level of The Boys. No, Butcher Baker is much more serious. Or maybe, the tongue isn’t in just your cheek, if you know what I’m saying.
The opening sequence of ‘Dick Cheney’ and ‘Jay Leno’ going to see Butcher Baker to recruit him back into the fold for one last gig says it all. It's a statement of intent right here that this comic is crude and isn't about pushing extremes, it's about violating them. Yet it doesn't quite do it in an over the top way. It's more just a matter of fact - Butcher Baker sits around with his harem, rubber gloves on for safety/pleasure, assorted narcotics and sex toys litter the room. He doesn't make a big deal of it, it simply is. I like that Butcher Baker never feels like he's winking at the audience. It means the stakes at play have true effect, something that starts to come into play in the next issue, and the characters have depth. True, honest depth.
Butcher Baker, as a man, commands each panel. He's constructed to be exactly what a manly man should be; massive pecs, shoulder muscles that look like armoured pads, a handle bar moustache of truly Elliott Gould levels circa M*A*S*H, and a wanton understanding that because of these attributes the world is his. This sort of character could easily devolve into excessive one-up-manship or forced navel gazing but instead Casey brings a tone to Butcher Baker that is reminiscent of Jack Burton (if you don't know who he is then do the following two things, 1. Flagellate yourselves for shame, and 2. Hit the Google machine to be enlightened - but beware John Carpenter's singing voice).
Here evolves a man I want to read about. Here is presented a character that seems so certain and yet has so much room for growth, especially with the story thrown at him. This book is about one man and what he is and what he represents. And all this happens while still entertaining me on multiple levels.
There’s an interlude with Butcher Baker on the way to his assignment that’s fun. He gets into a high speed chase with a highway patrolman and it’s one of the slickest chases committed to paper. The speed and action of the sequence is completely sold within each panel. The character of Willard, the patrolman, is the most over the top aspect of this book – which some might feel is strange in a book peppered with penile door knockers and the next modern step of punching Hitler. Willard is good but he’s also completely different. I’ll wait a little longer before casting complete judgment but for now he feels like an It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World character. Make of that what you will.
As Butcher Baker completes his mission, and in the final moments afterwards, we get true reflection. Is this a comment on the state of the superhero business always being stuck in a gruelling fight with the status quo and change never being really affected? Perhaps. Our muscular lead ponders his business and why he’s not more satisfied with the outcome. It’s an interesting scene to end the issue on because while it is explosive it’s also extremely internal. This isn’t stuff blowing up for the sake of the spectacle, this is an honest to goodness deconstruction – with plenty of sex and violence to keep you quiet.
You might be forgiven for thinking this comic is a ‘mature’ title that is out to titillate. At a glance this sounds like the sort of thing made for teens to snigger at but if you delve a little deeper you’ll find that Casey writes this so well as to transcend any of his smutty aspects. This comic has heart, and brains, and it most certainly is the start of something big.
Mike Huddleston delivers a multitude of artistic styles in this comic and while they’re disparate they still elucidate this universe he is creating. Some sequences have colour, others do not. Some are completely realised where other moments are just sketches. Huddleston uses his line to denote importance to scenes and moments, and he doesn’t mind getting out of the way at times to let the words take centre stage. It’s interesting and effective in all the right portions.
The greatest thing Huddleston does is make this world feel unlike that in which we live. The characters are overplayed, the action is stylistic, and the tone is completely off the wall. This is like the Batman TV Show if it was directed by Billy Walsh (do try and keep up with me on the references, please). The perversity drips off the page but so does the poignant air of the decline of this lifestyle. This comic looks amazing on many levels.
I will say my favourite moment of the week is seeing Butcher Baker in his ‘Cyclops’ visor about to deliver some old fashioned carnage. Just an awesome image.
Verdict – Must Read. The more you read this comic the more you will appreciate it. It gets smarter each time, though you’ll also pick up on more of the ‘down south’ humour. It’s this blend that means this book is good ol’ fun and people looking for a new thrill and addiction should jump on this one. Butcher Baker is crazy good so just remember what ol’ Jack Burton would do when he saw a book like this on the stands while the winds a-blowin’ and the poison darts come raining down, he’d hitch up his pants, take a deep breath, and give it hell.