(This review will contain spoilers. Be warned.)

I like Kevin Smith. I think he’s funny. (Not as funny as Scott Mosier, but that’s neither here nor there.) I listen to his podcasts weekly, and watch his movies. This is all to say that I would categorize myself as a fan of Kevin Smith.

Kevin also writes comics. My favorite comic work of his was his run on “Green Arrow“. It was a great read, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, I would recommend it, as I find it has held up well over the last ten years. It’s a little bit silly, but it also so a great appreciation for the character of Oliver Queen and his place within the DC Universe.

I heard that Smith had done a Batman book. I had heard that it was critically panned, and Kevin mentioned it himself in a podcast, defending his work against the critics. And there were critics. John Barringer from A Comic Book Blog said:

“Kevin Smith, at least for me, has pushed Batman’s character past his envelope.”

Chris Simms at Comics Alliance was less charitable:

Kevin Smith‘s Batman stories are the worst Batman comics I’ve ever read, and while I haven’t actually read them all, I’ve read enough that I’m pretty comfortable in declaring them the worst Batman comics ever.”

Now, I like to think I march to the beat of my own drum, and I can get behind some projects that maybe are not the most popular. That, and since I generally enjoy the work that Smith has done, in and out of comics, meant that I would happily give “The Widening Gyre” a shot, and I ordered the hard cover and read the book.

I came to my conclusions about this book almost immediately, and I put off writing this review for almost a month after having put it down, hoping to temper them with time.

That didn’t really happen.

“The Widening Gyre” is the worst Batman comic I’ve read.

I should have heeded the advice of the critics. It is achingly bad. As I read the book, I would audibly sigh or mutter in disapproval. It was a disappointment on every level save one, the fine cover art by Bill Sienkiewicz, and even that seems as wasted as lipstick on a pig. It also serves to remind you how poor the art inside the book is, as Walt Flanagan is often disappointing in his pencils.

Where the hell is her hand?
The book disappointed me on nearly every level. The writing was juvenile and wildly inconsistent. The plot devices are seeped in frat-boy humour and show a lack of research, both in the outside world and within the DC Universe. (Poison Ivy tries to stop Batman by, essentially, getting him really high on marijuana. Worse yet, it nearly works.) It is overly rife with sexual innuendo that really seems to be played for laughs rather than to add to the story in any progressive way.

I want to unread this book.
The entire book reads as if it were created by Jay and Silent Bob, legendary pot heads, and not professional writer Kevin Smith. There is nothing in this story of any substance, just an endless parade of sex jokes, drug jokes, and one instance where Batman admits to urinating involuntarily in his costume. (Kevin Smith took a hard stance defending that last point in his podcast, but it is really hard to take his defense seriously given the content of the rest of the book, i.e. Aquaman’s dolphins eavesdropping on Batman getting laid in the ocean.)

On top of the poor art and ill-advised use of humour, there are several inconsistencies in the characterization of Batman himself. In one scene, Batman is paranoid that his new girlfriend may be a robot, so he assaults her and rips some of her hair out for testing. Yet he’ll invite a stranger into the Bat cave without so much as plugging the guy’s name into Google. The whole series is riddled with gaping plot holes like this. It’s all over the place, and feels a little like Smith just doesn’t care. He got it done, it made him laugh and he shipped it off. The editors, Janelle Siegel, Mike Marts and Dan DiDio should have their wrists slapped.

The reason this book disappointed me so is, I believe, that because Kevin Smith has shown none of the reverence he had previously for the DC Universe in is previous forays, and because of that, the books reads as is it is self-serving and ego driven on the part of the creator, and at no time in reading it was I ever able to feel that I was immersed in the world of the Batman, but instead I constantly felt that I was just reading Kevin Smith messing around with the character.

Kevin Smith had this to say about his work:

 “I’m not telling you anything new…I’m far more creative now, you know. I’ve been writing this Batman: The Widening Gyre miniseries, and I’m stoned all the time when I’m writing it. And, I swear, I’ll write it, and then, it’s not so much blackout, but forget, so much so that the next morning, I go to read what I wrote, and it’s, like, I’m that cobbler and elves came and wrote it in the night, because I’m, like, “This is better than anything I’ve ever written before.” I mean, like, I’ve done comics, but this is way better.”

Kevin Smith got so stoned, he forgot what he had written immediately after writing it. He got baked, and then, the next morning, he believes that this helped him write the best thing he’s ever written. I cannot express how much this a) helps me understand why this book is written the way it is and b) upsets me that DC Comics allowed this to happen.

DC Comics is re-launching their entire comics line this year. My least favourite Batman comic and my least favourite Kevin Smith work will remain in continuity in the DC Universe following the DC reboot, as revealed when Kevin Smith tweeted the following:

Why? I cannot explain. It makes me sad, actually.

If I can make one recommendation to you about comic books, it would be to avoid “The Widening Gyre”. If you like Kevin Smith and you want to read one of his comics, go pick up “Green Arrow: Quiver” instead.