The first half of this 134 page novel is spent developing the characters and their situations. The final half is devoted to furthering the at-first tenuous connections between the two arcs. Although Welton and Exley are but an apartment story or two apart, the two might as well be miles apart, due to the violent conditions outside. Rapp and O'Connor do an excellent job reinforcing the claustrophobic setting and the viciousness of the mostly unseen "sackers" and "draggers," not to mention the sudden appearance of a character that Horlick described early on. Each of these elements combine to create a closing that ultimately provides no closure at all; things end, but there are no satisfactory explanations, no appreciable acts of heroism, no treacly sweet reunions.
Ball Peen Hammer thus concludes the way it began, in the middle of the action, with a paucity of explanation and an even greater lack of closure. For some, this might be a very frustrating novel, despite the well-drawn characters and their (almost too) realistic reactions to such an unrelentingly grim environment. Those who believe stories should have a "full" arc will inevitably be disappointed, since Ball Pen Hammer aims to tell a story that eschews such reader expectations. Instead, this graphic novel largely achieves its aim of thrusting the reader directly into the narrative, never allowing him/her the chance to "breathe." From O'Connor dark, vivid images to Rapp's uncompromising dialogue, Ball Peen Hammer is an excellent story that will certainly stick in my mind for some time to come. Felt like taking a shower and walking out into the sunlight after I finished reading that. Not many stories, regardless of medium employed for telling them, can achieve that effect. Recommended.
Release Date: September 29, 2009 (US). Graphic novel. Tradeback.
Publisher: First Second