The Tattered Man one-shot
Writers: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Artist/Cover artist: Norberto Fernandez
Letters: Bill Tortolini
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $4.99 US
Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have a pretty solid track record in the world of comics right now. While they’re not at the helm of any chart-topping comics, DC Comics clearly sees them as go-to guys for several projects. They’ve entertained me on numerous occasions in the past, so when I saw some of their advance efforts to promote this one-shot, creator-owned comic book, I decided to support the endeavor. Besides, the preview art on Palmiotti’s blog made it look promising. I’m pleased to say he and his fellow creators have kept that promise with The Tattered Man. An exploration of the darkest aspects of humanity, The Tattered Man serves as a gruesome catharsis. The dark premise — which is adeptly presented but nevertheless boasts some predictable elements — is matched with some nicely detailed and moody artwork. This original graphic novella should appeal to diverse spectrum of comics readers, from those with an interest in edgy anti-heroes from the super-hero genre to fans of intense horror comics such as the fare one might find in an Avatar comic.
A trio of youths, one of them toting a gun, force their way into an old man’s home on Halloween, looking to steal something they can sell so they can score some drugs. Instead, they don’t find anything of value, but they do find a secret that the old man’s been keeping since he was a child. The secret stems from his time in a Nazi concentration camp, from a time when his parents were murdered, when countless others were murdered along with them. The secret is about how those lost lives were avenged in blood. The old man tells them of the Tattered Man and the bloody swath it cut through a camp full of evil men. It’s been dormant for decades, but tonight, it will answer the call for revenge once again.
Artist Norberto Fernandez presents artwork that looks something like a cross between the styles of Paul (Time Bomb) Gulacy and Shawn (Sandman) McManus. His presented of the title character and its macabre power also put me in mind of the inky, creepy art of Kyle (The Hood) Hotz. His best contribution to the book is the intensity of the emotions splayed across the characters’ faces. The desperation, the fear, the confusion… it all really shines through here. I found the Holocaust flashback scenes to be particularly effective and moody. The black-and-white approach conveys the historical element and the stark, hopeless quality of the circumstances. Fernandez also captures the boy’s innocence quite well.
The one aspect of the art that didn’t work for me stemmed from the violence and gore that are a part of the premise. I found the instances in which blood is spilled off-panel to be much more interesting and effective. The horror is reflected in characters’ eyes and faces, and the reader doesn’t need to see it. Filling in the gory details on one’s own makes for a more satisfying horror-genre reading experience than seeing severed body parts and dripping blood and bile. A less-is-more approach to the violence is better, as far as I’m concerned. The more overt violent visuals took me out of the story briefly.
In the back of this comic book, writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray speak about the challenges of storytelling and creating comics. Palmiotti notes that they’re often approached by Hollywood types, but they’re never looking for anything original. He touts The Tattered Man as an original project that they wanted to bring to comics, but then he notes how difficult it is to get readers to look at something new (presumably made even more arduous by the fact that it’s not published by Marvel or DC). I was surprised by these sentiments they shared, because as I was reading this one-shot, I kept thinking that it might be a reworked story concept that they pitched to DC Comics as a Ragman relaunch. This is definitely darker than DC’s oddball, supernatural super-hero, but the two concepts definitely share some common ground.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Despite the slight tinge of super-hero genre that’s peppered throughout this book, it certainly feels quite fresh. The early mystery of what the old man kept in the box was a great hook, and the shift to flashback mode made it seem as though I was reading a completely different book all of the sudden. By the time the Tattered Man concept is introduced, it’s much clearer where the story is headed. Still, the book seemed to keep coming up with fresh hooks.
One of my favorite aspects of the book is what becomes of Danikka, the female junkie who’s part of the home-invasion plan. I was expecting her to suffer a horrible fate like other Tattered Man victims, but her plot thread brings a tiny bit of light into an otherwise black and depressing story. While the overall focus of the book is mankind’s cruelty to his fellow man, Danikka’s plot thread serves as a vital balance. I was surprised at how much I appreciated and was interested in her character’s transformation in the latter part of the story. 8/10
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