“Elmer Fudd” and “gritty noir” are by no means two phrases that should ever go together.
It doesn’t even make sense. This was the first issue that was brought to my attention before this whole DC/Looney Tunes crossover campaign started, and it was so weird in concept that I couldn’t get it out of my head. I mean, how could this even be possible?
But it is. And my recent comic readings are so much better for it.
This is by all accounts a serious, grim Batman tale of murder, fueled by the hunt for vengeance. While as foreign to each other’s worlds as they could possibly here, Elmer Fudd has somehow managed to become one of Batman’s more successful and chilling adversaries.
I can’t say “villain”, however. The story is far more complex than that. Again, “reality” is merged with lunacy. Here is a version of Elmer Fudd that is cunning, calculated, resourceful, and yet still manages to put a “W” in his speech where an “R” should be. Even his action “sounds” are “W” tinged.
The story starts with Elmer Fudd entering a seedy bar called “Porky’s” while on the hunt for Bugs “The Bunny”. A lot of classic Looney Tunes characters are present for cameo purposes, but are now humanized, which makes it even weirder because it still works. Bugs had been hired to take something precious away from Elmer, and in his efforts to save his own skin, the small-time crook implicates Bruce Wayne as the responsible party. While now human, this version of Bugs is still a trickster, which sets up the inevitable conflict.
When Batman and Elmer Fudd finally meet, Fudd isn’t playing around, becoming immediately deadly. Both are hunters, and as the conflict escalates, both find that they have far more in common with each other than they could have possibly realized.
At this point, the mystery deepens, and both are on a quest to find answers. Elmer is a man driven by desperation and loss, and as the story progresses, becomes sympathetic in his mission. He’s all business, but there are tiny moments of “Classic Elmer” that break through that gave me a chuckle due to the absurdity of it all. The return to Porky’s Bar turns the investigation on its head, as both find answers, but the reasons bind the two even closer together.
I loved the resolution of this story, as it felt more real than Batman simply disappearing to reappear silhouetted on a skyscraper rooftop. Batman, for a moment, becomes vulnerable. So many modern portrayals present Batman as someone who is always five steps ahead of the game while basically forgetting the Bruce Wayne half of his persona. To see Batman taken off guard and humanized, especially at the end, was a refreshing change of pace.
The second part is the original cartoon version of Elmer, squaring off with Bugs Bunny in the classic “Duck Season/Rabbit Season” gag. However, due to Bugs’ quick manipulations, the “Duck” becomes the “Bat”, and Batman is dragged into the conflict, and all that goes with humiliating Daffy Duck in his usual spot.
Elmer clearly has the upper hand here, but quick intervention pulls out a saving moment for poor Bats. While not as amazing as the first story, it is funny putting someone as serious as Batman in that classic joke.
There’s no reason that this story should have worked as well as it does. But it definitely does. Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1 is one of the highlights of the whole run (though all are surprisingly good), and is worth picking up to see how the oddball hunter fits so well into Batman’s world.