It’s a fundamental rule of comedy that the more seriously people take an absurd situation, the funnier it becomes. Consider Leslie Nielsen flatly insisting he’s never been more serious in his life, and stop calling him Shirley, or Buster Keaton’s stone face. And so it is with this week’s Batman/Elmer Fudd crossover, Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1 (DC Comics). Yes, Batman fights Elmer Fudd. And it’s even funnier than you might expect.
It works because Tom King’s script and Lee Weeks’ art are absolutely, completely serious. This is a Batman comic in the gritty noir mode, with Elmer Fudd as a small-time hitman out for vengeance. It’s told from Elmer’s perspective, and King’s straight-faced parody of noir prose just gets even funnier because he writes the whole thing with Elmer’s speech impediment. Where King gets clever is that he spots the places where the tropes of Batman comics, noir, and Looney Tunes overlap. This book works as a classic noir, a Looney Tunes story, and a Batman take all at once, and that’s an amazing feat of writing.
Weeks, meanwhile, delivers exactly the kind of rain-soaked, thick-inked world you’d expect from a dimly lit city full of crooks. But he also has a lot of fun reinventing the entire Looney Tunes cast as a bunch of petty violent crooks. Weeks keeps all the Looney Tunes characters recognizable without throwing off the shadowy world he creates or getting too exaggerated. Tweety may be talking about that time he got flashed by a stripper (“I thought I saw a…,” well, you know the rest) but he’s still recognizably Tweety.
Is all this utterly ridiculous? Of course! But that’s what makes it so fun. King and Weeks have turned an incident of “corporate synergy” into a hilarious satire of three different bits of culture at once, and that makes it a truly great book.