Image Comics, 18 pages plus extra material, $ 2.99
One of the things I like so much about Butcher Baker is that it doesn’t hide its penises.
For all the grisly violence, the puerile or outright jaw-droppingly awkward notions of sex and the overall testosterone-drenched sensibilities you’re likely to find in virtually half the DC and Marvel superhero comics on sale in a given month, there may be nothing in the whole wide world that their publishers, editors, makers or readers are more afraid of, ironically, than penises.
Have you ever seen the penis of a Marvel or DC superhero other than Dr. Manhattan? I don’t mean the sexual innuendo or the porn parodies. I mean the real deal. Batman is supposed to be a real badass. But, for all we know, he is a badass without a penis. For all we know, Franklin Richards was adopted, Wolverine has a big, hairy set of nothing between his legs, and the Avengers are a bunch of eunuchs.
With Butcher Baker, the hero of Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston’s eponymous superhero series, that’s emphatically different. We’re only seven issues in here, but we’ve seen this guy’s wang repeatedly—and also the wang of his arch-villain, Jihad Jones. Think of Doctor Doom, the Juggernaut or Galactus. Now try to imagine them with whangdoodles befitting their much-invoked villainous presence. See what I mean?
It’s this lack of restraint and creative timidity, this celebration of freedom and naked truth, that makes Butcher Baker such a jolly good comic. The spirit of invention and exploration that Mr. Casey and Mr. Huddleston are bringing to this book is practically oozing from every page. If there’s any any reason at all why anybody in this world might be interested in superheroes as a genre at all, then why shouldn’t they be as unafraid and, literally, as balls-out, as this one?
There isn’t a single aspect of the contents of this book that isn’t, for lack of a better term, cocky as hell. The dialogue is poetically in your face. The layouts and page-to-page storytelling are so sharp and kinetic that you’ll frequently check if the edges of the paper are still there. And Mike Huddleston accomplishes more with his lines, shadows and colors on a single page than most of his peers manage in a year’s worth of Captain Wangless or High-Octave Avengers.
Most superhero comics tend to be concerned with the reason, but completely lack the rhyme. Joe Casey’s superhero books don’t just have the rhyme—they are comics you can dance to.
This has rarely been truer than it is for Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker. And that’s what makes it indispensable.
That, and the silhouettes with the penises.