Images & Words – Butcher Baker and Casanova!

[images & words is the comic book pick-of-the-week at OL. equal parts review and diatribe, the post highlights the most memorable/infuriating/entertaining book released that wednesday]

It’s not usually a struggle for me to pick my favorite comic of the week. More often than not, a single funnybook will stand out, whether because of an incredible story, moving visuals, or some other quality. But on more fortuitous weeks, I’ll be presented the wonderful dilemma of having multiple candidates in my stack o’ panels. This is one such week.

And since both contestants are so damn appealing, I’m going to give both of them the grand prize! Open the vault, Seymour, these two are both going to spend a fabulous week at Images & Words! See, isn’t it great when one’s success isn’t defined by some other sap’s failure?! Ta-dah! Pop the champagne and slap a stripper’s ass! Huzzah!

Butcher Baker: The Righteous Maker #2 and Casanova: Gula IV are both phenomenal books and you should buy them. As soon as possible, dingbat! Don’t sit on your ass! Oh, what’s that, you want to know why they’re worth your hard(ly) earned cash?

Okay then, follow me into a diatribe that looks like that kooky cave on Dagobah….

In the sake of saving time (both yours and mine), I’m not going to go through plot summary. Hell, if you don’t know what these books are about, check out the reviews I did previously (Butcher Baker here and Casanova: Gula here). Instead, let’s examine the commonalities that make these comics so awesome. Sure, they’re both well-plotted and structured, providing sound narratives to explore. But that’s not the main draw for me, as there’re plenty of bullshit books that come out every week that provide an entertaining distraction from daily living. It’s something else, entirely.

The creators of these comics don’t give a fuck.

I’m not saying that they don’t give a fuck in the sense that they’re phoning in their performances, hoping to produce something so they can cash checks and continue living. In fact, I mean just the opposite – Butcher Baker and Casanova appear to be the creations of artists who are so invested in their work that they don’t care about rules and conventions. These are risky books, pushing the envelope both in terms of the stories themselves as well as the means by which they are conveyed.

I’d really like to sit in on a conversation between Joe Casey and Matt Fraction – these are writers who know all the rules and all the ways to break `em. In the second issue of Butcher Baker, Casey introduces a slew of characters sure to drop the jaws of the easily-startled. Of these new figures, the two most notable are easily a blue American jihadist facsimile named Jihad Jones and the Absolutely, a ghostly cosmic hermaphrodite that spouts out philosophical arguments. On the other hand, Fraction’s conclusion to Gula features more than one character acknowledging that the reader is checking out a comic. While this meta-commentary would be enough to grab your attention by the balls, it’s just another element of a script that sees time-travel weaving together with men inhabiting women’s bodies and having sex with men, alien love interests, and psychomanifestations.

These boys can write.

Hell, maybe I’m even drawn to these comics because both feature a section of backmatter. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing how my favorite creators go through their respective processes. Maybe it’s the aspiring writer in me, but it’s cool to think that these incredible products came from the minds of other individuals. Before being anchored into existence, the books were just floating driftwood in the river of Ideaspace.

Of course, both Butcher Baker and Casanova are visual orgasms. On their respective titles, Mike Huddleston and Fabio Moon give the reader cause to pause, treating each page with the respect it deserves. While reading both books, I found myself holding the pages at different angles, trying (perhaps futilely at times) to understand what was going on. I can’t do these guys justice right now, but I assure you that these are artists worthy of your respect. And your cash.

Sometimes I complain that the comics world is plagued by bogus superhero books that want nothing more than to keep the Hollywood machine well-fed. But on weeks like this, my faith in the medium is renewed. Butcher Baker #2 and Casanova: Gula IV are innovative, entertaining, and damn mind-expanding.