The name “Kevin Smith” is bound to get a reaction from virtually any comics reader. Whether you love his work, or hate his tardyness, you can’t deny that he’s a polarising figure in the industry. After much-celebrated runs on Daredevil and Green Arrow, Smith seemed to bow out of comics after limping out the end of his Spider-Man/Black Cat miniseries, leaving Daredevil: Target entirely unfinished. A brief return to write a Clerks 2 tie-in aside, it seemed as though his comics career had come to an end.
So, when Batman: Cacophony was announced at a convention earlier this year accompanied by the presentation of 2 completed scripts, there was considerable surprise. Whether Smith’s star-power has dried up remains to be seen, but for some of us, Kevin Smith writing one of the industry’s biggest characters definitely warrants a look.
The series features a new villain of Smith’s own creation, and unfortunately, that’s the weakest element of the issue. The painfully-nomenclatured “Onomatopoieia” emulates the literary device of the same name, speaking in sound-effects, and otherwise, seems to act as a hired killer. His presence in the book is enigmatic, but uninteresting.
However, beyond that, the series actually looks quite entertaining. The joker features heavily – far more so than Batman, in this issue at least – and as you might expect, Smith really goes to town on the dialogue, cramming in enjoyable speeches for his (quite cartoonish) version of the villain, though every character has their moment.
The art comes from Smith’s longtime friend, Walt Flanagan. While this seems like a suspicious choice, when you hear it, it’s clear that Flanagan has the chops to succeed as a comic artist. He’s not as A-list as some of Smith’s previous collaborators, but he gets the job done in a fluid, cartoonish style which suits Smith’s Joker well, if not necessarily the rest of the characters. The only moment it really fails is when the script takes a fairly dark turn, and the art can’t really convey the twisted horror of the moment fully due to Flanagan’s limitations, but there’s definite potential here, and if the series shows anything it’s that he’s an artist with a future ahead of him.
While it has its high and low points, the appeal of Batman: Cacophony does ultimately rely on Smith himself. Divorced from Smith’s name, it becomes a fairly generic Batman story with some odd characteristics, and is really only elevated by its association with the movie-maker. For some, like me, that’ll mean you generally enjoy it. If you’re less interested in the cult of Kevin Smith, then you’ll probably find its weaker moments much harder to forgive.