As abrupt an ending as this story has, I felt pretty confident that I knew the basic gist of what was happening. Then I back peddled, second guessed myself, and skimmed through some of the pages I previously read and I gotta say…it’s all still a bit hazy. Illustrator George O’Conner and Pulitzer Prize finalist author Adam Rapp‘s “Ball Peen Hammer” is a visual fever dream. Element’s within the story stay with you just long enough for the next terrifying incident to come along and throw you for a loop. How and why anything in this story happens isn’t ever made clear, you just know “that’s the way it is”. That and that “The Man” has something to do with it. Strangely enough there is a love story, but one with no resolve. If there ever was an end all be all set of tragic circumstances for a one night stand this would be it. It’s clear to me that the author wasn’t looking for empathy on our part. He doesn’t give us enough of our characters back story to warrant it. So one must approach this book from a different angle. Metaphor’s, remember what I said earlier about the fever dream? Maybe our character’s are symbols. Here you have our central character’s a musician, a writer and an actress…all artist. They all somehow get put upon by this unknown character…this Terry Gilliam-esque sewer dwelling goomba who never talks, but the characters all know what’s expected of them when he arrives…”Something must die” (Spoilers) and that someone, for whatever reason, must be a child. Maybe what the writer is trying to say is what “has to die” is a bit of yourself (as Artists) every time you do something that isn’t true to who you are, which brings me to the “id” in this story “Horlick”. A child who’s backside has been twisted by the elements, but above all, man’s cruelty towards each other. He could easily stand for the whimsy. Our willingness to let go and create, but Adam corrupts that symbol with a disease thus allowing Horlick to die a long cruel death that is until Exley (The actress) comes along, (SPOILERS) befriends him only to take Horlick’s life so he doesn’t suffer the effects of his disease. I guess if there was a character you could “Empathize” with in this story it would be her. Everyone else has already succumb to dread and are now working on animal-like instincts. Exley on the other hand, is still nurturing and loving despite everything you know she’s been through. Speaks volumes about a woman’s true strength. It’s that same strength that leads her to do what she has to do at the end. In a word she has the power to create and the power to take away. However by the end of the book you know that’s all about to change for her. Ball Peen Hammer is just a small piece of what could potentially be an amazing science fiction post apocalyptic graphic series. The stage has been set for some great reading.I just realized how this review  reads a lot how this book felt. Strange, violent and brutally real.

Synopsis:

The world is dying.  After most of the city succumbed to the plague, Welton’s staying inside — permanently.  But hiding in his claustrophobic basement room — the only place he knows is safe — exacts a gruesome price, and he becomes part of a collective that’s killing children.  Infected with the plague himself, with no way to find the woman he loves, Welton takes refuge in apathy — until someone knocks on his door.   Ball Peen Hammer gives us a window into life in a half-deserted apartment building in a time of raw love, sacrifice, fear, and death.

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