Friday, 25 March 2016

The Rattler Review (Jason McNamara, Greg Hinkle)


Stephen Thorn and his fiancee Catherine are broken down on the side of a dirt road when a hillbilly stops to seemingly help them out - and then murders Catherine. Ten years later Stephen’s become a bestselling nonfiction writer but he’s never moved on from his lost love. One day he hears her voice coming from a corpse - can she still be alive somehow? He sets out to find out.

Jason McNamara and Greg Hinkle’s The Rattler is a very messily-plotted comic that’s full of nonsense. It starts well though - that opening scene where their car’s broken down is really great and the “Inspired By True Events” label that appears before the book starts applies to this part of the story. McNamara explains in the afterword that he and a friend were broken down by the side of the road in 2001 when they received help from a stranger who turned out to be crazy and tried to kill them. Nobody died and the crazy got away but he took that event and dramatised it into this scene. 

Then we get into the nonsense. Ten years later I understand Stephen’s become a successful writer but I have no idea what the Thorn Law is or what obscure service his company provides. Was this detail even necessary? Then an ex-con who’s jumped parole breaks into Stephen’s house and is waiting for him to return. He’s got a gun and threatens to kill him - Stephen fights back and accidentally impales the ex-con on a shard of glass, killing him. 

Now: isn’t that the very definition of self-defence? If Stephen had called the cops, no jury in the world would convict him of murder or manslaughter, right? But, because he’s an idiot, he decides to run, not report the death and make the whole scene look even shiftier than it is. That’s the moment I realised McNamara was not a good writer at all. 

I won’t get into the detail of the rest of the story which involves Stephen escaping out of numerous scenarios - breaking out of stocks and a car boot because the narrative needs him to become Houdini - and a shoddy homage to Stephen King’s Misery (Stephen even calls himself Steve Bachman, a conflation of Stephen King and his pseudonym Richard Bachman). The real psycho’s reasons behind a years-long insane campaign made no sense whatsoever and the resolution to Stephen’s story was anticlimactic and unsatisfying. 

I wouldn’t have even bothered with this one if it hadn’t been for Greg Hinkle’s involvement. I loved Airboy and wanted to see more of his work, which for the most part is great except, holy shit, what the fuck was up with the characters’ hands? I’m not joking, the hands throughout this book are beyond ridiculous - half the time it looks like they’re wearing Hulk gloves, the hands are so swollen and disproportionate to the bodies! What was the editor thinking allowing this crap through? 

Speaking of Airboy, I did like the James Robinson cameo at the end (complete with copies of Airboy on his bedside table in case you weren’t sure). That, the art (except the bizarre hands), and the opening scene are the only positives about The Rattler. Otherwise it’s an ineptly told crime thriller that wishes it were as good as Stephen King in the 80s but doesn’t come close.

The Rattler

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