Best Shots Review: It's Bat-Season in BATMAN / ELMER FUDD #1 (8/10)

BATMAN/ELMER FUDD #1
Credit: DC Comics
Credit: DC Comics

Batman/Elmer Fudd #1
Written by Tom King
Art by Lee Weeks, Byron Vaughns, Lovern Kindzierski and Carrie Strachan
Lettering by Deron Bennett
Published by DC Comics
Review by Scott Cederlund
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Looking back at the old Looney Tunes cartoons, when Daffy Duck would literally get his bill blown off his face or the Tasmanian Devil would be tricked into running into rock walls at full speed, there’s always been something dark and sinister about Chuck Jones and Tex Avery’s imaginative world. While it was masked by bright and cute cartoon characters who turned these actions into pratfalls, the world that Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd inhabited was really a dangerous place. So for Tom King and Lee Weeks, it doesn’t take too much nudge the tone of Elmer Fudd from comedic punching bag to seething danger as he sets his sights on taking down Bruce Wayne in an emotional quest for revenge.

Lee Weeks brings characters like Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig into Gotham City, humanizing them while keeping their defining features intact. With his hunting cap and khaki jacket in place, Elmer Fudd is no longer a punchline but a man who seethes with anger and rage. While Tom King keeps his signature lisp in place, Weeks makes up believe that this is a man who can hold his own against the Batman. Armed with just his trusty shotgun, this Elmer Fudd is a man who walks into dive bars and is one of the most dangerous men in that bar. He brings Fudd into Gotham not as a joke but as a wild card; a man looking to kill Bruce Wayne to revenge a lost love.

As Batman and Fudd exchange punches, Weeks choreographs the action to display the skills of each man. Fudd isn’t just another low life criminal (or even a police commissioner) who Batman can simply sneak up on. To see these two classic characters tussling with neither one having the upper hand on the other makes this version of Fudd a true force of nature. So when the two end up teaming up (c’mon, you knew that was going to happen, didn’t you?) to find the truth about Fudd’s dead lover, the tandem team of Elmer Fudd and Batman feels more unstoppable than any other duo that either character has ever participated in.

As no stranger to the Batman, King creates a neo-noir world about the Looney Tunes cast. They’re brawlers, mercenaries, snitches and con men. And they’re all perfectly within character. By changing the settings from rabbit holes and Poughkeepsie to the back alleys of Gotham, all of these characters are perfectly recognizable as the classics that they are. And while the visual portrayal of these characters is a more real and human, King and Weeks’ depiction of Fudd and the others show just how little you have to tinker with these characters to get at the darkness and violence that underlies their best cartoons.

And in the backup, King and cartoonist Byron Vaughns turn the tables on Batman and place him directly in Elmer Fudd's sights with the declaration of “Bat Season!” It’s a Mad Magazine portrayal of Batman done in a Chuck Jones style. Unlike the first story that makes us see the Looney Tunes characters in a different light, the backup is a cute retelling of “Wabbit Season” that places Batman in the middle of the usual eternal conflict between Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny. It’s a quick joke piece that’s as familiar and safe as the main story is dangerous and dark.

It’s almost scary just how easily King and Weeks transform Elmer Fudd from being the straight man to Bugs Bunny into a dark, complex and cunning character. Turning Elmer Fudd from a joke into the star of this comic, King and Weeks use these cartoon characters to tell a story about crime, love, and revenge without having to change who these characters are.

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