Easily one of the creepiest and most disturbing books to come out in the comics format recently, Ball Peen Hammer is a postapocalyptic tale of humans forced to do vile things just in order to survive. Little explanation is offered as to why they find themselves in this predicament (would it matter?), and it’s more or less irrelevant. The real meat of the story, which is done by playwright Adam Rapp, is the toll exacted on people who are given the most horrible of demands.
George O’Connor is more than up to the task of illustrating this dark fare. His multipaneled pages are saturated with heavy ink but light on color, creating an atmosphere of little hope amidst the foreboding of evil. We meet Welton first, then Aaron, two men thrown together in a rat-infested building where they await instructions from an oafish big man who assigns them their grisly tasks. You may be wondering what those tasks are…I won’t ruin the surprise here, but suffice to say, the title gives you a clue.
Ball Peen Hammer is simple and straightforward in most respects. The hows and whys matter somewhat, but not much. The real point of the story, it seems, is the devastating effect man’s inhumanity to man causes in all of us and how far we will all go to survive.
Still, there is a glimmer of hope to be found, and Rapp and O’Connor seize on it and give the story a small bit of light despite the heavy subject matter. What you walk away with in this tale may be disturbing, but it’s thought-provoking as well and will stick with you. So while it’s not for the queasy or the easily upset, it does have the ability to resonate with dark effect.
Reviewed by John Hogan on July 12, 2012