Saturday, 7 June 2014

Joe Hill's Thumbprint Review (Jason Ciaramella, Vic Malhotra)


A soldier who did terrible things in Abu Ghraib (but wasn’t caught) returns to America and tries to re-assimilate back into civilian life. But the past still haunts her and then one day someone starts leaving thumbprints on notes in her house, her car… what does it mean and could someone from those dark days in the Middle East be returning to exact vengeance? 

Thumbprint is an adaptation of a Joe Hill short story (it says “novella” on the cover and though it’s never been agreed upon exactly how many pages separates a short story and a novella, 15 pages is definitely a short story), by writer Jason Ciaramela and artist Vic Malhotra. Hill’s short story is also included here, along with a weird fantasy comic called Kodiak, plotted by Hill but not written by him. 

The theme of Thumbprint is how war changes people but specifically the way that the United States has conducted its War on Terror - waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, etc. - and how that has affected their own troops’ minds; but the execution lets it down. 

Written in a style that wishes it were Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, Thumbprint’s hackneyed “mystery” story (you can guess who it is pretty early on) plods predictably on to an underwhelming finale, complete with a crazy murderer who’s not so crazy that he can’t tell the main character, and the audience, his plans in an extended monologue. 

None of the characters seemed believable in the slightest, the killer’s motivations were idiotic, and the final panel reveal was groan-inducingly stupid - it comes off like it was written by a high school kid determined to write “cool” and “edgy” fiction, and making a chump of themselves instead. It’s the equivalent of writing “The End” and then “...?”. 

Also, when you set up your main character as totally unlikeable and barely two-dimensional, there’s absolutely no reason to be rooting for them to defeat the bad guy at the end. Both characters were pretty awful people and I would’ve preferred if both had died instead of just one. 

Thumbprint takes a lofty theme and fails to do it any justice, producing instead a cheesy, third-rate serial killer story. Hill’s short story goes into more detail and is slightly better, though the comic did set the bar really low, and the final addition to this book, Kodiak, feels very out of place here, set in ye olden dayes. 

Even if you’re a Hill fan I can’t imagine you’d get much out of this; to everyone else, don’t bother.

Joe Hill's Thumbprint

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