The major comic companies get enough reviews and press, it’s time for the creator-owned and indie series to get some love and judgment. Indie review takes up-and-coming indie and creator-owned series and puts them through the review process so you can confidently support the best of the small press and passion driven projects in the comic industry.
The Info Bit
Title: Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker
Writer: Joe Casey ( Haunt, Wildcats Version 3.0 )
Artist: Mike Huddleston ( The Strain, Gen13 )
Letterer: Rus Wooton ( Thief of Thieves, The Walking Dead )
Publisher: Image Comics
Number of Issues: 8
Page Count: 24 per issue
The Review Bit
A unique little snowflake in a sea of superhero comic books, but nowhere near as dainty, Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker, was a brilliant piece of sequential art from Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston in a form only something like Image could publish. This title was the epitome of an indie comic, pushing boundaries to the point of shattering them in raunchy, affordable, adult, genre bending, creator owned genius. It was 8-issues of sex, violence, nudity, action, and psychedelic art for just $2.99 a piece.
So what is Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker and why might you not have heard of this awesome series? Butcher Baker was a creator owned title that first saw publication in early 2011 from Image comics, a dirty little brain child of long time comic creator Joe Casey. It told the tale of a retired superhero, Butcher Baker, who had succumb to a life of decadence and debauchery. The series opens with the character strung out on sex and substances, lost in his post-heroic lifestyle, when Dick Cheney and Jay Leno (yes, the ex-VP and Tonight Show host) come to him with a job offer. It is a rather simple mission that even Butcher shouldn’t be able to screw up: Go to an old super villain prison, blow it up, and tie off all your old heroic loose ends by killing all the villains. Sadly, our hero manages to screw up by leaving 6 of the worst villains left alive. Now Baker must fix this problem by hunting them all down and silencing them once and for all before they silence him.
The series is filled with nudity, violence, and swearing, so those not capable of enjoying a very mature and audacious title might want to stay away. However, for those that dig this kind of stuff it will be like paradise. The pages of Butcher Baker are filled with tits, ass, and cock (yes, cock, and there is a lot of the dangly bits hanging around various male characters…and even some that are questionably less male). Blood also comes in excess, though often stylized by Mike Huddleston’s incredible art and colors. Oh, and don’t forget the swearing comes flooding out like fuck was one of the only words in Casey’s vocabulary. You especially see this excess of cursing in Casey’s backmatter, a great staple of recent Image titles. In the 8 pieces of comic backmatter spread across the 8-issues of Butcher Baker, Joe Casey rants about many various topics ranging from the state of the comic industry to childhood recollections of film and television. These rants are often loosely tied together at best, but are close to stealing the show in the comic with some rather well thought out essays that seem almost like train of thought style writing.
Casey’s writing in the comic itself (meaning the sequential art scripting) is enjoyable, and certainly in a style comparable to Matt Fraction’s Casanova meets the extreme raunchiness of some of Garth Ennis and Warren Ellis’ more extreme titles from Vertigo and Avatar Press. It is definitely in that style of counter-traditional superhero comics with an added mix of shock value. Scenes like one depicting a Manson-esque super villain rapping his deceased victims whilst wearing a tutu are certainly out there, but might just be what certain fans of comics like Crossed and Transmetropolitan are demanding these days. Meanwhile the dialogue is often more goofy than dark, creating a fun atmosphere in all this morbid and sexualized content. The dialogue of Arnie B. Willard, a small town Sheriff caught in Baker’s violent wake as he obsessively attempts to arrest the ex-hero, is of particular humor in its southern simplicity and mock accent. Other characters take much more extreme perspectives befitting of their personalities, which can easily be seen in their captions and word bubbles. There certainly aren’t any “normal” characters in Butcher Baker, as everything hits as an extreme or clichéd comic personality. What’s truly fun in all this is that it allows for the comic to not take itself anywhere near seriously in giving readers a lot of fan service and Geeky references, such as Butcher Baker’s truck’s grill being made from a mix of Adamantium and Vibranium or just the fact that Jay Leno is a part of the military industrial complex.
On the art end, fans are able to see the true talent of comic book artist Mike Huddleston, who is beyond brilliant. Mike’s style of penciling, inking, and coloring seems to change from panel to panel to create a very unique set of moods throughout the book. In some panels and pages you can see very sketchy and simplistic designs, sometimes even looking like they were poorly cut and pasted into the art, while others show such an extreme detail you’ll be lost in the scene for ages. I partially want to compare it to Fabio Moon’s work in Casanova , once more bringing a comparison to that other incredible Image title. Huddleston’s inking style, or rather his texture style, changes throughout the series as well, with some moments having a pop art look while others look as if they were done in a quick slather of sharpie. Now let it be said, when I speak of these more simplified styles, at no point does any of this come off as a lack of care or a need for speed, but they fit rather stunningly in the moments they appear. Huddleston truly pushes the boundaries of comic art here in a very unique way, much as J.H. Williams III did in his works, albeit utterly different in approach. I must admit a strong admiration as well for Huddleston’s coloring, which truly defines the books art. Switching from grey tones to just particular colors appearing over black and white, in certain pages Huddleston even provides some of the most beautifully vivid comic color I’ve seen in ages. It truly is hard to describe what he does in Butcher Baker and simply must be seen by anyone who has the chance to pick up the comic. The best way I could truly describe it would be to say it is a highly successful experiment in varying forms of sequential art, not likely to ever be replicated to the same degree.
The Rating Bit
Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker is a beautiful yet twisted piece of sequential art that both bucks the system and artistically experiments with the medium. While I don’t think it truly forges any new roads, it certainly shows readers the best way to take some lesser used paths. This fun and visually captivating tale earns, without any doubt in my mind, a strong 9 out of 10 for its entire run. Those of you who missed the single issues of this comic can look forward to the oversized hardcover , collecting the full series, set for release December 5th of this year.