ADVANCE REVIEW! Butcher Baker: The Righteous Maker #1 will come out on March 30, 2011
As of Butcher Baker #1, I’m not sure what the fuck Joe Casey is up to with this comic.
Casey, if you’ll remember, was the guy who once pushed the boundaries in the mainstream to little avail (but not for lack of trying) on books like Uncanny X-Men (as the dude who wrote an entire story arc about Chamber dating a pop star) and Adventures of Superman (as the dude who made Superman a pacifist) while doing straight-up groundbreaking work for Wildstorm: Wildcats 3.0, Automatic Kafka and The Intimates. He disappeared into a more lucrative industry doing television work with his creator collective Man of Action on shows like Ben 10 and only recently resurfaced with underrated fringe mainstream stuff like Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance and Dark Reign: Mr. Negative. Now he’s in a much appreciated full-on indie mode, starting with last year’s batshit insane Officer Downe and continuing with Butcher Baker.
Oh, and I suppose he’s been doing Godland this whole time. Forgot about that. Either way, the return of Joe Casey is welcome, and Butcher Baker has been a book I’ve been quietly anticipating since all those amazingly filthy teaser images circulated around the Internet.
The setup is fairly standard: Butcher Baker is a retired government-operative superhero (he’s even saved the President!) brought out of retirement to carry out more jobs for the government, including, in this issue, blowing up an entire prison full of supervillains. It’s in the details, however, where the thing gets crazy: the guys bringing him out of retirement are Dick Cheney and Jay Leno. And Butcher Baker himself is some analogue of The Comedian from Watchmen. Oh, and the President? He’s the secret President of Reality.
As you may have been able to tell from the title, Butcher Baker the Righteous Maker is a bit nuts. It’s got penis door handles and a protagonist who drives a big honkin’ star-spangled semi. Come to think of it, there are a lot of things that are spangled with stars in this comic, including our hero’s dong on the cover.
Casey paces his comic wonderfully, giving us the recruitment, Butcher Baker battling a highway patrolman with his semi and completing the mission by the end of the issue. It’s a bang-for-buck kind of comic, but not one where he openly begs the reader to come back with a cliffhanger or a shocking revelation. Rather, he seems to hope that the book’s own entertainment value will retain its readership. In fact, it reminds me of the first issue of Fear Agent in that respect, except without the clear concluding mission statement. Which sounds like I’m saying it’s not as good, but it’s just that Butcher Baker
Again, it’s in the details that the book intrigues. What we have here, it seems, is Joe Casey bringing sample culture to superhero comics. We have The Comedian (whose dialogue he even directly quotes) as our hero, an homage to Captain America punching Hitler, Cyclops visors and a prison full of supervillains — a fairly common trope, but let’s point to The Raft as made famous in New Avengers. Knowing what I think know of Casey, I imagine he’s making some statement about the futility of working in a genre that’s so steeped in its predecessors that everything can feel like a Xerox of a Xerox ad infinitum. But there’s also a degree of subversion in using what’s essentially a gritty Alan Moore character to tell something nowhere near as grounded as Watchmen — maybe he’s trying to lure in the superhero crowd and fuck with their heads. One can only hope.
But I’m a very patient reader. I read Final Crisis in single issues and never once complained. So I’m excited to follow Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston (whose art I’ve neglected to mention thus far — he sells the absurdity Casey’s going for while casting them in varying, dazzling color schemes, often in glowing pinks and blues) and see where they take us in Butcher Baker the Righteous Maker. I only expect that I won’t know what to expect.