Y'know - people who don't do horror sure have no idea on how to react to things that are from the genre. It's all tawdry, it's irredeemable, it's as bad as Grand Theft Auto. Not that there's anything wrong with that type of fun stuff - I grew up playing Vice City because I had cool parents. I am not a fan of Troma, personally, but I get it - I have to stop myself from cheering while I'm watching Hellraiser because of the sheer mixture of the holy/the utterly desecrated and the contrast between purity - and a whole lot of fucking blood and gore.
But when something isn't PURE psychological and uses body horror to get its point across, you're bound to lose the dumber sectors of the anti-horror brigade. I have a problem with this mindset, mainly because as a writer, I understand that the use of such visceral imagery can sometimes be used to the most amazing effect -
- and that is typically when the body horror says something about the less readily visible aspects of a person - their morality, their sins, ect, ect. This is even used to talk about the mores and the societal rules of a deomographic of people. Torture porn is something altogether different.
Now, why am I talking about body horror.gore before I talk about this, a graphic novel that breaks away from my streak of kids' books? Heheheh.
Ball Peen Hammer - Adam Rapp, George O'Connor 2009
Do I Own This?: Hell Yes!
Spoiler Free Portion
This story is a plague dystopia that takes place a good while after the shit has hit the fan so hard that people's morality has become shrunken to fit just around their own safety. The resistance has been crushed; the only hope (a vaccine) now lies, at least for these characters, just beyond the crushing boundary of a mysterious group that keeps people trapped inside and doing awful things for some unexplained reason.
Our four main characters are paired into two groups, one that are in this basement room where things in bags make the room smell godawful and the other are in a clocktower whose clock broke when "the bombs fell". The person who maintained the clock is dead in the other, locked room.
The only thing to do appears to talk, to share - to share a human warmth that could very well be the last expression of such emotion for a good deal of the population that is lucky to escape the guns, the dogs, the insanity outside.
This was a graphic novel written by a playwright, and that becomes immediately apparent - the powerful use of atmosphere built by the first few pages shows writing that understands the importance of silence, to allow body language and setting to become modes of expression, the language through which much of the story permeates. There are very few instances where the characters are outside of the two rooms that they are holes up in for survival - this is the biggest sign that it was written by a playwright, and this is perhaps one of the best stories to ever be written with the medium of a play in mind. The shock value of the title - and the cover art - is perhaps one of the best choices that I have seen for a first introduction to the mood of the story, but I find myself wishing that this cover was simply either the equally meaningful pigeon or the pink balloon (which is, admittedly, on the back cover).
Yeah; this is one of the most dire, sad works I have ever read. Is there any hope? What are the roles that they now must play?
I would recommend this as reading material to people with a strong disposition towards the saddest/darkest material imaginable. A tour de force of tragedy, a musing on the worth of morality in the death rattles of the human race.