Ball Peen Hammer
by Adam Rapp & George O'Connor (First Second, 2009)

The setting is dark and atmospheric -- a terrible dystopian future or hateful alternate reality, we're not sure which. The only reason that Ball Peen Hammer succeeds at all is George O'Connor's moody art, which exaggerates certain physical characteristics of its cast, draws the reader's attention to certain ugly truths in this world and paints the scenery in a muted palette, interrupted by occasional splashes of color that only serve to emphasize the surrounding wanness.

Adam Rapp's story, on the other hand, comes up short. Why are these people here? What brought them to their various unfortunate circumstances? What has happened to society? Hell, why do these people do what they do?

Yeah, we're not getting many answers here. There are threads of interesting stories in our grasp, but Rapp doesn't tug on any of them. He gives us the outlines of characters who, in other situations, might even have been likable, but he doesn't fill in the gaps.

Perhaps Rapp's only goal here was to leave his readers feeling unsettled and depressed. If so, I suppose he succeeds. If he hoped to tell a good story, he forgot to finish the task.

review by
Tom Knapp

18 April 2015

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