Butcher Baker is one of the most bizarrely innovative comics I have read in a long time. This is what you might get if Grant Morrison, Ed Brubaker, and Alan Moore created Captain America in a shared fever-dream. Seriously. This is a crazy book, and I loved every minute of it.
In order to avoid having to say it multiple times during this review, let me say clearly and simply that I am not making up a single plot, character, or art detail for the sake of a joke. This book is as weird and funny as it sounds. I am not making any of this stuff up.
The story begins when Dick Cheney and Jay Leno (Seriously, go back and reread the last paragraph.) recruit our titular, washed-up, retired superhero for one last job. What follows is at once an entertaining and straight-forward superhero story, a funny and insightful satire of a superhero story, and an existential, deconstructionist mind-fµ©% along the lines of Morrison’s Arkham Asylum. On the one hand, it is the classic American hero fighting a series of supervillains. On the other, it is a comic for someone who is tired of the superhero rut.
The cast of characters is odd to say the least. To say the most, here’s a rundown. The villains include: White Lightning, an electric femme fatale; Angerhead, the gigantic S&M punchy guy; The Abominable Snowman, or Mr. Freeze with a jet engine on his back; El Sushi, the sumo luchador; Jihad Jones, the stark raving insane Joker character; and finally, The Absolutely, the evil Dr. Manhattan. Butcher Baker is the Comedian crossed with Captain America and Burt Reynolds. His super soldier serum includes an engine to replace his heart.
As far as the story goes, I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed it. The sheer amount of excess that is in these pages is enough to make a grown man cry 10W30 tears. Let’s just leave it at this. If you can get behind the idea of a superhero with a 12-cylinder heart and a beautiful handlebar mustache winning a high-speed chase by throwing a hand grenade out of his star-spangled big-rig and blowing up a hotrod that is made of electricity, then this book will make you very happy. If that doesn’t interest you, then I want nothing to do with you.
I don’t know where else to mention this, but there is a tremendous amount of nudity. Think Dr. Manhattan without the modesty. Really, there are four players in the final showdown and only one of them is wearing anything. This is one of those things that you should know ahead of time, but it does work in the story. Mostly, this is for those of you who had trouble watching Watchmen.
As much as I loved the story (and, holy Crom, do I love it), the art is absolutely incredible. The style jumps all over the place, from vibrant color to black and white, from slick and sterile lines to frantic and kinetic rough images. In one issue, you can see five or six styles that are completely different. The thing is, every one of these changes makes sense. There is never the impression that the art is just showing off or doing something odd because it’s time for something different.
All told, this is one of those rare books that does something new and interesting. It is completely obscene, insane, and definitely not for everyone. It is, however, masterfully executed, fun as hell, and absolutely for me.
Five Star-Spangled Big-Rigs out of Five.