Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Jason McNamara
Artist: Greg Hinkle
Publisher: 23rd March, 2016
The Rattler has been on my radar ever since I discovered the art of Greg Hinkle last year through Airboy. It had been in the works for a long time until Jason and Greg brought it to Kickstarter, and now Image have agreed to publish it. So naturally, I jumped on this opportunity for an early review of the OGN release.
The truth, they say, is stranger than fiction, and the roots of this story lie in the actual events. In fact, the actual account of what happened to Jason McNamara has been detailed by the man himself at the end of the story, and it’s almost as engrossing (not to mention more than a little creepy) as the tale it has inspired.
The Rattler follows the story of Stephen Thorn, a man who was helpless to prevent the kidnapping of his wife in front of him some years past. As a result of her abduction (she was never found), Stephen has campaigned for victim’s rights ever since. Becoming a fierce right-wing campaigner for zero tolerance against offenders, he has built a database of criminals that his foundation use in their cause. Throughout all of this, he has never stopped believing his wife was alive. Then, one night, he goes to visit his father on his deathbed. Having been estranged from his father for many years, he gloats over the wreck his father has become, before making peace with him as he slips away. As Stephen turns away from the body of his father he hears the voice of his wife from the dead mouth, begging him to help her get out of the place she is trapped in.
This sets of a dramatic chain of events as we follow Stephen on his journey to find his kidnapped wife, and I’ll tell you now, it’s a doozy. Not knowing (as the reader) if this is some psychological break brought on by his dad’s death, or vindication of Stephens years of campaigning, Jason McNamara has written a fun story that jumps from drama to horror to murder to psychological thriller and back again. It’s an effortless read with more twists and turns than a switchback road in the alps, and it always keeps you guessing. You just don’t know what’s coming next until the final reveal, and then suddenly everything makes sense. The dramatisation is excellent, the story flow is dynamic, even the ending is the complete fit. It’s only one hundred pages and I sped through the story like I was consuming my last meal, I was simply enjoying myself that much!
Greg Hinkle has once more taken on all the art duties himself, although he has it a little easier as The Rattler is in monochrome. There are the occasional splashes of red through if the scene is bloody which gives the comic a bit of an Indy ‘Small Press’ feel. That’s a lie, there is a lot of blood in this, I think Greg was having a great time with Jason’s script. Greg has such a wonderfully unique style of drawing that I absolutely love. The characterisation in the faces he draws is great; a skill I believe to be the sign of a good comic artist. Greg, however, has a secret weapon: I’ve never quite seen someone who uses hands in the way he does to bring some emotional authenticity to a scene. Don’t believe me?Have another read and pay close attention!
Another cool little ‘tell’ Greg has used in The Rattler is the paneling. The layout is fairly standard and easy to read; the clues to the scenes he leaves are in the borders. Sure, most are thick lines, but these change with the mood of the story. If Stephen is under a lot of strain, or his wife is speaking to him the panel borders wobble. When the Marshall is thinking through the clues, the borders disappear. In high action scenes the borders are jagged. It’s little nuances like these in the art that really add to the complete feel of the story, and I love picking up on them. There is also a quite wonderful little Airboy easter egg in there for those familiar to his work with James Robinson. It is such a clever little surprise that it will delight fans in the know, and be completely oblivious for those none the wiser.
The Rattler is a brilliant little find, it’s a wonderful and twisting story that deserves (I think) to be a lot longer than it actually is. That would be my one complaint, that the story was over just a little too fast; I think this puppy could have had a little bit more mileage. In saying that, I would still strongly recommend you pick this up. If I find myself devouring a comic as fast as I did this one then I’m definitely enjoying myself, and I love the fact that the ending was not a cop out, it just served to make it all the more real and complete a tale. I will be genuinely surprised if, ultimately, this does not get optioned, as it practically screams Indy movie.
The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.