14 Sep / Ball Peen Hammer by Adam Rapp, artwork by George O’Connor, color by Hilary Sycamore
The Booklist review blurb on the stark black back cover (with a heart-breaking pink balloon floating away) should serve as quite the warning: “Not for gentle readers.” Probably best known as a playwright, Adam Rapp has certainly created a busy, award-winning career by exploring the darker characteristics of humanity, usually belonging to the dissolute slacker youth species. His debut graphic novel doesn’t stray far, although it’s possibly .. well … more graphic. The multi-faceted artist also writes and directs films, plays in bands, and writes regular (as in prose, not necessarily regular in content) novels, too.
No doubt about it: Ball Peen Hammer is about death and destruction. A sore-infested musician missing too many guitar strings lives solo in a wretched clock tower building until he’s joined by a (healthy-so-far) novelist who thinks “it’s important to chronicle what’s going on.” What’s going on beyond the putrid room is a post-apocalyptic city-in-ruins overrun by sewage, violence, and utter chaos. The still clear-eyed writer wants to believe that a written record will prevent such brutal tragedies from happening again.
Meanwhile, upstairs, an angry young boy and a searching young woman first throttle one another over a cantaloupe, then start to tentatively build something akin to a mother/child bond. The need for survival, however, puts out even these small glimmers of humanity and the ultra-violent ending will certainly make your stomach lurch.
George O’Connor’s visuals, by the way, is blood-curdlingly effective in capturing the eerie desperation of the dark, gory story. If you enjoy being scared witless, you’re going to love this one. Although better not to read this in the dead of night.