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Review: ‘Looney Tunes #226’

LooneyTunes 226_CVR_dsLooney Tunes #226
Writers: Bill Matheny and Sholly Fisch
Artists: Dave Alvarez, Walter Carzon, and Horacio Ottolini
DC Comics; $2.99
Rated E, for Everyone
Preview here.

So what’s the first thing that jumps out at you regarding the cover of the latest issue of DC’s Looney Tunes comic series? For me, it was the issue number itself, which is higher than that of any comic on any imprint that DC is currently publishing, and it’s higher by a lot.

The long-running Fables just published its final, 150th issue, and Hellblazer made it to #300 before cancellation, but that was a few years ago. As for the superhero comics, several of which were running practically uninterrupted since their Golden Age debuts, the publisher re-set their number as part of the line-wide “New 52” reboot in 2011.

In fact, not only is Looney Tunes, which launched in 1994, now the longest-running DC comic to never get relaunched with a new #1, it’s also got everything produced by rival Marvel Comics–who will soon be relaunching all of their titles, even those that are only a few months old, with new #1s soon–and just about everything else in the Direct Market beat. Heck, Archie just got a new #1 last month after it reached 666 issues.

In an era where the bigger publishers chase the tiniest gain in periodical sales, no matter how short term or short-lived such a gain can be, and will reboot with new #1s for the flimsiest of excuses, a comic book publishing its 226th issue like this isn’t just unusual, it’s downright peculiar.

That said, Looney Tunes isn’t exactly your average comic book series. For one thing, DC doesn’t even collect it in trade paperbacks; this is a comic book series meant to be read as a comic book, in small, serially published, paper-and-staples format doses (or electronically, I suppose).

What’s in the 226th issue of Looney Tunes? Some pretty familiar characters, doing some pretty familiar things; in that respect, Looney Tunes is almost exactly like most of DC and rival Marvel’s comic book lines.

The most interesting of the three short stories included in this issue is the third one, “Comic Relief.” Written by Sholly Fisch and drawn by Walter Carzon and inker Horacio Ottolini, it is an extended homage to one of the best-known and best-loved Daffy Duck cartoons, the 1953, Chuck Jones-directed Duck Amuck. If you don’t recognize the title, you would almost certainly recognize the cartoon itself: It’s the one where an increasingly irritated Daffy Duck finds himself being tortured by an animator, who he spends most of the runtime directly addressing.

In this story, Daffy finds himself literally booted out of the office of the Looney Tunes Editor at DC Comics (which oddly still has the old DC bullet logo, which is two logo redesigns ago, marking this is as a reprint; the use of which is another way in which this comic varies from the majority of others in the direct market).

And why did he get kicked out? Simply for suggesting they change the name of the comic to Daffy Duck (and some Second-Rate Characters Whose Names We Forget). The next eight pages consist of Daffy trying to leave the comic but unable to do so, and breaking the fourth wall to address the artist and even the reader.

It doesn’t work quite as well as Duck Amuck did, largely because when it comes to comics the audience has to imagine motion and sound, making the experience less a “real” than a cartoon character arguing with an animator on your TV screen, but Fisch and company find various meta-media gags specific to the comics format to use, and the final gag has an original punchline completely different than that of the animated source of inspiration.

The cover story, by writer Bill Matheny and artist Dave Alvarez, is enittled “Road Blox Knocks,” and is an eight-page pantomime in which Wile E. Coyote attempts to catch the Road Runner using Acme-brand Road Blox, which function as Minecraft-esque blocks. At least one of the gags is a particularly hoary old one, but given a new coat of paint with the Minecraft aesthetic.

That’s actually a pretty apt example of what’s at the core of this comic (and the many other current examples of Looney Tunes IP exploitation). Sure, the characters and jokes are mostly extremely old, but they’re continually given new coats of paint, so they never actually look as old as they are.

It obviously works for this group of characters and this particular comic, based on the issue number.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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