The GeeksverseREVIEW | Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker HC (Image Comics)

REVIEW | Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker HC (Image Comics)
Published on Thursday, December 6, 2012 by
Casey and Huddleston’s “political/sexploitation super hero comic book” is collected in an oversized, feature-packed hardcover edition, and the comic proper may not even be the best part of the volume. Get the lowdown on the title in our review. 

Key Review Points

Pros:

  • Beautifully illustrated.
  • Extended fight scenes feature well-considered panel composition and violently animated storytelling.
  • The included essay, For Which it Stands, is funny and searingly insightful all at the same time.
  • A wealth of “behind-the-scenes” material provides a glimpse into the book’s inner workings.

Cons:

  • The relentless pace and non-stop spectacle of the story ultimately makes for wearying reading.

Publication Details

  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Publication Date: December 2012
  • Story and book design by: Joe Casey
  • Art and colors by: Mike Huddleston
  • Lettering by: Rus Wooton
  • Logo/Graphic design by: Sonia Harris
  • Format: 250 page, oversized, full-color hardcover. Collects Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #s 1–8, originally published in 2010, 2011, and 2012 in single magazine format by Image Comics and the short story “Funk,” originally featured in the Four Letter Worlds comic anthology published by Image Comics in 2005.
  • List Price: $24.99 (digital review copy provided free-of-charge by the publisher)
  • Availability: On sale on 05 December 2012

Page Previews (Click on images to view in larger size)

  

Full Review

The title’s November 2010 teaser image campaign got tongues wagging. Click to view the original, minimally obscured promotional image (NSFW warning).

Writer Joe Casey (Uncanny X-Men, Automatic Kafka, The Intimates), has been on an absolute tear for Image Comics since 2005, when he started work on the Eisner-nominated Gødland. Not only has their association resulted in original works such as Nixon’s Pals, Charlatan Ball, Officer Downe, and Doc Bizarre, M.D., the publisher has also been able to acquire the rights to material that debuted under other publishers’ banners such as The Milkman Murders and Rock Bottom.

The 2010 launch of Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker, another Casey-penned Image Comics mini-series, was heralded by a teaser image campaign that had the comics community abuzz with its promise of “a ridiculously ultra-violent and over-sexed world unlike anything anyone has read before.” The book premiered in comic book shops in December of that year to generally positive reviews, more than a few of which focused, disproportionately it seemed, on the installments of a serial essay entitled For Which it Stands that Casey included in each issue. I’ll say it right now: For Which it Stands—edited and compiled into an abridged version—along with Mike Huddleston’s astounding art for this series are the strongest features of the book. Rambling and self-effacing, the veteran comic scribe’s essay is loaded with searing insider insights into the current state of the mainstream superhero comics industry such as the following

Years ago, I was shooting the shit with a prominent and talented comicbook writer who also happens to be a good pal, and he was relating his experiences being part of a four-man writing team on a well-received weekly superhero series (“weekly” being somewhat unique in the mainstream, especially back then). You could debate the artistic quality of this particular series, depending on your tastes, but this writer knew damn well that they weren’t exactly creating a literary masterpiece for the ages. And that admission was not accompanied by regret or shame or any negative feelings whatsoever. But something he said did strike me as an obvious truism, something that perhaps none of us want to admit to ourselves… referring to the (relative) sales success of the series, he attributed it mostly to the following: “People just like getting their crappy superhero comics.” When he said that, I knew exactly what he meant. He wasn’t pronouncing judgment on the readability of the series or the merits of the ideas contained within, he was simply stating that the current readership of mainstream superhero comics are, to a degree, an insatiable lot—not too terribly discriminating—and they simply want to be fed on a regular basis. Quality is beside the point. Regular delivery of said “crappy” content is where it’s at. Given a choice between a mediocre superhero comicbook delivered at an endless, steady clip and a single, unpredictable shot of supreme artistic achievement… his theory suggests that most readers would choose the mediocre comicbook. And I think, in general, I agree with him.

It doesn’t take much detective work to figure out that the “crappy” weekly comic book series referred to in the anecdote is DC Comics’ 52, although that’s really an incidental detail when placed against what Casey’s anecdote is about, which is that mainstream superhero comics are currently in a state of creative stasis, with writers giving readers what they want and the readers obviously buying it all up. Which is all fine, excellent even, in the interests of stable commerce, but from a creative and artistic standpoint, such a state of affairs leaves little room for innovation. As Casey mentions elsewhere in his essay

The fact is, the big Work-For-Hire Publishers are currently mired in a swirling stew of strange continuity and gutless editorial control and all of the daring experimentation of the 2000’s seems like a distant memory. So to look for that pure hit of unbridled inspiration and enthusiasm at either publishing juggernaut is, at this particular moment, a horribly futile endeavor that would test any reader’s patience to its limit. And, goddamit, it’s not just me. You can reboot your universe and have your big franchises knock the shit out of each other all you want. It just doesn’t matter. Movies and TV have finally adopted—or co-opted—our secrets and are currently doing them better for a much bigger audience.

Despite the seemingly jaded and somewhat cynical tone of the above excerpts, Casey, in his essay, is less interested in pointing accusatory fingers at Marvel and DC than he is in revisiting the experiences that led him to fall in love with superhero comics in the first place and discussing potential remedies for the creative torpor currently afflicting superhero comics. In a way, Casey is tackling the same themes and issues that Garth Ennis dealt with on the recently-concluded The Boys, although this approach doesn’t really extend to the hardcover’s comics material.

Because of their juxtaposition in print, readers might be tempted to interpret Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker as a metaphor or an elaboration of For Which it Stands, but it isn’t—Casey actually says so in a post-script to the essay. Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker, which features the eponymous superhero coming out of retirement for one last job to end the supervillain threat once and for all, reads like a cross between Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Warren Ellis’ Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E., strained through Matt Fraction’s Casanova for good measure, with the sex, violence, and profanity turned all the way up to 11. And while that sounds like eight kinds of awesome, the non-stop, over-the-top spectacle is wearying almost to the point of boredom. To borrow the book’s over-sexed tone, like a four-hour Viagra erection, it’s way too much of a good thing. The supposedly transgressive political and social commentary mentioned in the mini-series’ promotional materials also turns out to be little more than a cursory stab at satire, with the skewering of low-hanging fruit like Dick Cheney, Jay Leno, and religious (Islamic? Hindu? It’s never really made clear) extremists coming off as just a bit perfunctory. It’s not that it’s so much a poorly executed story in and of itself—it’s fairly entertaining when deliberately read in shorter, sub-chapter length installments—but it is somewhat disappointingly predictable in its extreme formulation of the “sex + violence + profanity + philosopho-babble + superheroes” equation associated with the so-called mature superhero comics sub-genre: Rather ironic given the thesis of the included essay.

Mike Huddleston’s art, as always, is something to behold, perhaps more so in this book than any work I’ve seen from him in recent memory. He uses flat marker-like colors, “painterly” filters, and screentones to great effect for texture and to highlight the action and subjects in panels. He also has a knack for knowing when and where to break the rules such that his pages look wildly dynamic but not to the detriment of storytelling flow and panel-to-panel transition. The extended, “widescreen” fight scenes in particular feature some outstanding panel composition and violently animated storytelling and they provide welcome disruption of the written narrative’s oppressive pacing.

Besides the aforementioned For Which it Stands essay, the book also has a veritable wealth of “behind-the-scenes” extras, from a section explaining the work behind Sonia Harris’ logo and graphic design, a detailed digression on Rus Wooton’s lettering, a sample page from the original book proposal, Casey’s handwritten notes of the basic story beats of the eight issues, a step-by-step breakdown of Huddleston’s variant cover creation process, a full reprint of “Funk,” a prequel short story of sorts that was published in 2005, and reproductions of the teaser images used during the mini-series’ November 2010 promotional campaign. Casey even manages to throw in something of an apology for the ten-month delay between the release of issue #7 and #8 of the original mini-series in the essay (said delay culminating in a public falling out between Casey and Huddleston that played out on Comic Book Resources and Facebook).

It’s very rare that I end up enjoying a book where the story itself didn’t do much for me, but there is so much to like in this volume—Huddleston’s great art, Casey’s insightful essay, the numerous special features, the solid value offered by the hardcover packaging—that I still find myself giving the Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker hardcover my recommendation, with some reservation.

Discuss this article below or contact the author via e-mail
4 Responses
    • I remember all of those teasers from 2010, but i never checked out the actual comic. As odd as the teasers were they must not have worked on me.

      • Yeah, the teaser stunt was interesting, but the book quickly dropped off my radar after the first three issues or so hit. I think taken on its own as a grindhouse-type superhero comic “loaded with empty calories” as Casey has described it in a number of interviews, it’s okay, but it was really the art and the accompanying essay (each issue came with two pages of essay text to fill out the page count) that held my interest. Obviously, not everything Casey writes can or has to be something like Automatic Kafka or The Intimates, but given the hype that preceded it, I think it wasn’t unreasonable to expect something that had that sort of, “I haven’t read anything like this before” feel.

    • […] Comics) December 8, 2012 New Crusaders #1-5 (Or 1-2 depending on how you count) December 8, 2012 REVIEW | Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker HC (Image Comics) December 6, 2012 Avengers #1 December 5, 2012 Quick Thought Reviews: End Of November December 5, […]

    • […] but no one can dispute that he’s putting his money where his mouth is: From 2011′s Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker to the controversial, formerly-banned-on-comiXology Sex, and now to this month’s The Bounce, […]

Advertisements

Connect With Us!
The Geeksverse on Instagram
Recent Comments