Thursday, October 01, 2009

Ball Peen Hammer

Adam Rapp & George O'Connor
Ball Peen Hammer is a new graphic novel from First Second Books that marks the graphic novel debut of both creators involved. George O'Connor is a New York Times bestselling author of picture books, while Adam Rapp has written several young adult novels and plays. This book takes place in a city that's ravaged by poverty and disease. In fact, the plague that runs rampant through this city is pretty nasty, infecting a person with unsightly sores, blindness, loss of feeling in limbs, etc. Not very pretty. But the entire city is being eaten away much the same way, as people will steal food from others without a thought, feral dogs eat humans for survival, and people will pull gold teeth from a corpse in exchange for a buck. This world is brutal. It's full of violence and blood, especially when it comes to The Fellowship's creepy recruitment of people to steal children, kill them with ball peen hammers, and stuff them in bags to be carried off for who knows what. Amid all of this chaos are a small group of survivors residing within a clock tower. The two men in the basement, writer Aaron and musician Welton, fall into the hands of The Fellowship, unaware of a woman (Exely) at the top of the tower who is carrying Welton's child, searching for him following an encounter they had in The Undertunnel. Exely, meanwhile, befriends a foul-mouthed, masturbation-crazed young boy who tried to steal her food. None of the people involved in this story are left unscathed. It's pretty dark and depressing, without much in terms of hope. It's an ugly world Rapp creates for his readers and while there are some tender, human moments in there, it's mostly shocking scene after shocking scene, and it's mostly stuff we've seen in various post apocalyptic or horror films out there. Nothing really new or innovative is brought to the table. O'Connor shows a lot of promise, however. Despite the horrible world he illustrates, his drawings are nice and clear, strong and sharp, and he paces the story like he's been working on graphic novels for ages, with the ability to slow things down when a moment calls for it, or speed things up during intense action or horror scenes. I can't really say that there's much meat to what's offered here, but I'd say that George O'Connor is a great find, and will probably have a long bright career as an illustrator for whatever medium he decides to focus his efforts on.

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