The Rattler seems to me like a world where Chew had a baby with Vulgar. That’s right, that horrible View Askewniverse movie with the clown who keeps getting raped. Rattler’s hero has one weird thing about corpses, and the story itself is thoroughly mean-spirited. The short version: Stephen Thorn’s girlfriend is kidnapped. Ten years later, Stephen Thorn is a victim’s rights advocate who manipulates housing markets to keep chemically castrated probates out of housing and therefore in prison. He hates his father for reasons barely given space to be written down. But then he finds out that when a person dies, their death rattle is Thorn’s girlfriend telling him clues as to where she is. Is it in his head? Is it really her spirit? The book isn’t concerned with answering that question, but more concerned with the journey to find the girl.
Let’s start with the glaringly obvious: in order for Thorn to find his girlfriend, who speaks in sentence fragment riddles, a lot of people have to die, in front of Thorn, no less. This is a book that’s full of carnage that doesn’t necessarily flow from the story and the character interactions, but rather from the plot’s need to meet a conceit. How many people have you ever seen die, in front of you? Show of hands? I’m going to guess for most of us, it’s zero. Maybe one. So here, McNamara and Hinkle create a world where Thorn kills or allows people to be killed pretty regularly, and for reasons that make him seem even more cold and unfeeling.
In a story like this, a hero can be driven by a negative goal or a positive goal. A negative goal is all the things he doesn’t want (“I don’t want people on parole to get a second change, I don’t want to make amends with my dad, etc”), and a positive goal is the one thing he does want (“I want to find my girlfriend again”). In this story, Thorn chases after the positive goal of finding his girlfriend, but it never feels like a driving need, somehow. He takes convoluted steps to reach places where things go from bad to worse for him, and it feels disjointed. The story is less than 100 pages, and it could have been 50 or 200, it wouldn’t have helped the flow.
I’ll stop here to point out: Hinkle’s art is on point. For this kind of story, this weird, like, The Hills Have Eyes meets Taken kind of B-movie story, he nails characters down to their red, alcoholic noses, and keeps the story flowing well. I’m not sure why they decided to use red blood in their otherwise black and white comic because a) it inevitably draws the Sin City comparison, and b) if you’re going to use one accent color, it has to be an accent to the climax of the story. The climax of this story is in the scene just after a red, blood-soaked farm scene. It didn’t kill the effect for me; I just wasn’t sure why it was there to begin with.
What really got my undies in a knot about this comic was the last sequence in the book, which takes place one year later than the main action. If we stopped the story at the end of the main action, it would be a pretty good, extended take on an EC Comic, y’know, gory, somewhat irredeemable, and reveling in it (though this comic does not revel in much). With this added scene, it became an attempt at a psychological redemption for a man we never felt much sympathy with in the first place.
This comic has its redeeming aspects. It probably has a target audience, and fans that will dig it. I am not one of those people. The artist is great. The writer understands how to tell a story, just maybe not this story.
Writer: Jason McNamara Artist: Greg Hinkle Website