If you look at the cover of “Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker” #4, you’ll see a stars ‘n’ stripes big rig flying across the page, looking pretty badass. I can’t think of a single other comic where this image would make a lick of sense and, yet, I didn’t even blink at seeing it on the cover of this comic. I thought it looked cool, but there was never a “Why is there a truck on the cover and nothing else?” That’s the sort of expectations that Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston have fostered heading into the fourth issue: expect anything so long as it looks cool. And that’s something that “Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker” has over most of its competition for shelf space and your comics-buying dollars.
Taken on the surface, “Butcher Baker” is a decent superhero comic. The eponymous hero comes out of retirement to blow up a prison housing all of the super-criminals he once captured at the behest of the Powers That Be. Some of the bad guys survive and seek revenge. Nothing too mind-blowing about that premise, right? The draw lies in the execution, driven by Casey’s offbeat dialogue and Huddleston’s kinetic, gorgeous art. It isn’t so much about what happens as how it happens. No issue is a better example of that than this one where Butcher Baker fights a trio of his former enemies in midtown New York.
Huddleston’s art practically leaps off the page even when drawing something as simple as a naked Butcher Baker watching TV after sex. His use of color is integral, shifting from black and white to garish neon pinks and blues to straight forward traditional colors. He’s not attempting a realistic approach, instead going for one that accentuates the mood and point of a scene. He drops out colors to command attention in a panel, even shifting styles completely like at the end of the issue where, for two panels, he uses a painted style. His lack of colors for scenes with Arnie B. Willard, the highway patrolman seeking revenge against the Righteous Maker, only makes the Absolutely stand out in his/her cosmic glory.
All of which is to say that Huddleston’s art is much more than his line work. That added level of coloring is so rare in today’s comics that it stands out. It lends itself to the crazy feeling of the comic, but also helps tell the story through its visual cues and how it draws the eye. It’s something that’s lost in that striving for ‘realism’ in modern coloring.
His line work is superb as well. Like his coloring, it’s often exaggerated and over-the-top to communicate the energy of a scene and to focus the reader’s eye. He shifts his style when appropriate, altering how much detail will go into a panel. Stuff like Willard’s cigarette rarely touching his lips or his use of speed lines (and other indicators of motion or contact) add so much to the comic and draws us into its weird, cartoony world.
From the cover on, “Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker” #4 looks nothing like pretty much every other superhero comic available. It’s loud, crazy, energetic, and doesn’t even try to reflect the real world. It’s just fun and cool and awesome. Exactly what it’s striving for.