"The Rattler" is a an original graphic novel published by Image Comics back in March of this year.
(Sometimes, I'm just slow to read something. )
The story goes something like this: A man, Stephen Thorn, watches helplessly as his girlfriend is abducted in front of him. He never gives up hope to find her, though.
Cut to ten years later. He's a bitter victim's rights advocate type. Picture John Walsh, with more of a chip on his shoulder. He still hasn't given up on finding his girlfriend, even though it's looking to cost him his current flame, who he also happens to work with. (Complicated, awkward, and I hope the HR department is strong.)
When he gets a message from the abducted ex via a dead person, he races to find her, getting more messages from her through more dead bodies.
It's a brutal book: parts crime, thriller, and horror.
It's actively engaging. Writer Jason McNamara leads you through the story well. He gives you enough hints to follow along and try to guess ahead. The ending twists will surprise you, but not feel like a cheat.
McNamara controls the pacing to build the book up to breakneck speed by the end. He establishes Thorn's current lifestyle, then rips it all away from him. The jet setting media-friendly man is suddenly back to racing down desert roads, through small towns, and into sketchy homes. He's driven more by this Don Quixote-like pursuit than any semblance of common sense.
Nobody would believe him if he told them that he heard his girlfriend's voice, so he's on his own. And he's not exactly a streetwise fighter. He's in for a world of hurt when he does his imitation of a bull in a China shop in all the worst places.
There are some brutal and bloody fights along the way, including one particularly grizzly death near the end. I'm not big on blood and violence, but things in this book are just creative and creepy enough to hold my interest. Everyone is messed up in this book, and McNamara keeps it all from getting repetitive.
The Art of the "The Rattler"
Greg Hinkle is one of Image's best artists. I know we tend to look towards new crops of artists as they show up on the Marvel/DC radar and praise them there, but spare a moment for Hinkle, who you might remember from the "Airboy" book with James Robinson or, currently, "Black Cloud" with Jason LaTour and Ivan Brandon.
I absolutely love his style. It's a great combination of cartoony and realistic, bringing the best of both worlds with a great feel for characters that can act and emote. Look at those expressive faces and the slightly-too-large hands that sell their every gesture. It might remind you a bit of Jason Howard's work, from his books with Warren Ellis like "Trees" or, perhaps more appropriately, their webcomic, "Scatterlands".
This book shows off his style so well. It's a mostly black and white book with a lot of gray tones to it. The only color is red, which comes in handy for the blood in all the fights everybody gets into every few pages.
There's a style and a dynamic at work in this book that's unmistakable and right up my alley. It even reminds me of some of the European art I like so much, where the characters and settings are realistic, but the characters are cartooned in certain ways to give them extra personality and movement.
Plus, I'm a sucker for those gray tones in lieu of coloring. When done well, I always am. Keep the grays light enough and they'll look better than any color job could do, more often than not. Here, they definitely do not overpower the art. They only help to add layers and shadows and dimensions to the art.
Oh, and he's also good at the hand lettering for sound effects.
Available Today, So Go Get It
This book works super well as an OGN instead of a mini-series. I understand the financial reasons to do mini-series, but this work presents so well under one cover that breaking it up would have been criminal.
Also, it's not a terribly long read. I finished it off in about a half hour, I think. I probably should have taken a couple extra minutes to read it, but I started speeding through those last pages to see what was going to happen in the end.
I think that's the best compliment you can give the storytellers.
"The Rattler" has a print cover price of $14.99, though it's available for a little less than that in digital, of course. If you have the stomach to handle a bit of bloody real world fighting, it's a great book with some beautiful art. It is rated as "17+ Only" on comiXology, and that will include not just the violence, but also the sex and language issues.
I'm only sorry I didn't read it sooner. McNamara and Hinkle tell a great one-off story with a definite ending. It's completely satisfying, and a book I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to someone in the mood for a violent crime book.