After a successful Kickstarter campaign back in April, writer Jason McNamara and artist Greg Hinkle’s 96-page graphic novel about a man searching for his fiancée ten years after she was kidnapped has begun to arrive to its backers (a couple months early!).
So…is it good?
Stephen Thorn’s beloved fiancé is taken from him in the dead of night when a seemingly kind man stops to help them on the side of the road.
“Come back! You still have my iPhone!”
10 years later, his writing career has taken off along with his company, which uses incredibly heavy-handed tactics to continue punishing violent criminals long after their jail sentences have ended. Whether or not you should believe Stephen’s actions are justified is never spelled out for you. He’s not a protagonist that you’re even sure you should be rooting for despite the obvious sympathy he deserves (and the gallery of vile rogues he ends up facing).
…like these two colorful characters.
That conflict for the reader gets infinitely more complicated when dead people start speaking to Stephen in his fiancé’s voice…asking that he come find her…with clues as to where she might be.
McNamara does a masterful job keeping everything about Stephen ambiguous, including his sanity. The story gives us plenty of proof both for and against the supernatural element being real, all the while toying with the righteousness of the man who’s horrific, tragically heroic, and possibly misguided quest we’re watching unfold before us.
Stephen is also being pursued by people who have both personal and professional interests in his well-being. When their paths begin to intersect with his, the results are far more explosive than anyone could have imagined.
Is It Good?
I’ll admit it: I’m a ‘capes’ guy. I’ve begun to branch out into a lot of non-superhero stuff, but my pull list is still dominated by superhumans in tights.
I also had an incredibly hard time getting my PDF copy of this book due to an issue with the files not downloading on iPads (despite Jason’s many hours/attempts to help). When I finally did get it, however, I decided to only read a few pages over dinner before getting some work done. I’d already had too much of my time taken up by this thing to read it all in one sitting.
My work was quickly put aside, however, when I found myself unable to put the book down until the end. The cast of characters are as rich and interesting as what you would find in a long running series. The story is brutal, terrifying, and devastating…often all at the same time.
The plot sets up its twists and turns beautifully, paying off in ways that had me constantly wanting to know what would happen next. By the heartbreaking end of the tale, it had gone in directions I had never expected while consistently staying true to the themes and tone McNamara set from the first page.
All this great story work is complemented perfectly by Greg Hinkle’s gorgeous, kinetically-charged artwork. He handles quiet and atmospheric moments with the same mastery as the intense action sequences. The black and white accented by color only when red blood shows up makes it all that much more effective.
My only quibbles were minor ones:
- One of the big surprises seemed a bit too contrived (scarecrow), but was still awesome.
- One of the many big reveals near the end of the story could have used a bit more foreshadowing, but again…still awesome.
This book isn’t good in a qualified ‘They did it on their own, so good for them’ sort of way. It is just plain damn good compared to any other comic on the shelves right now. If you didn’t get in on the Kickstarter, then hopefully this book gets picked up by one of the major publishers and can receive a major release. If it does, then you need to pick it up. No matter what your preferred genre of comic book reading material is, The Rattler is sure to be one of the very best things you’ll read all year.
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