Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me #2 ComicWow! Review

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This is the second issue of a five-issue adaptation of an underrated noir crime novel with a strong cult following. Devin Faraci is a journalist who also writes on the internet.   He writes a column about comics and is the editor-in-chief of Birth.Movies.Death. Vic Malhotra’s resume includes a lot of X-Files, but he also worked on Roche Limit, Murder Book, Thumbprint, and Tiger Lawyer.

Issues one and two are quite faithful to the source material.
The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson was part of the 50’s noir crime movement.  Two things separated it from much of the flood of crime novels of the era: first, the southwestern setting, and second, the calm, almost ‘matter of fact’ look inside the head of a sociopathic murderer.  Although underappreciated by many readers of the era, it has survived the test of time.  It has been adapted twice for the screen.

This is a combination of police procedural, psychological thriller, and noir crime story.  If Dashiell Hammet and Thomas Harris had an over-caffeinated, manic/insomniac writing marathon in southern Texas, this would be the result.

Lou Ford, the main character, maintains the façade of slow thinking, boring and banal small-town deputy sheriff.  In actuality, he is cruel, sadistic and brutal.  He is completely without remorse or conscience.  He takes great pleasure (as well as security) in having everyone underestimate him.
Ford’s “sickness,” his need to act out violently, is rising.  In this issue, it manifests as a well-planned double-murder.  HE plans it all out in great detail, building his alibi very carefully.

Faraci manages to capture both the details of the Southwestern setting and the Noir feeling of the story, but his real gift is his understanding of Thompson’s characterization of Lou Ford.  His strong point appears to be his understanding of the use of narration/dialogue from Ford’s viewpoint.
Malhotra’s art is phenomenal.  It is unadulterated, devoid of meaningless extraneous detail.  He really understands the late 50’s/early 60’s style of realistic crime art.  If Wertham hadn’t gone on his rampage, this is what crime comics would have looked like in the early 60’s.  He uses a limited palette, in homage to the artwork of the era, but he gets the greatest use out of every shade and tone.

While I find this to be a fascinating and brilliant comic, I cannot recommend it to everybody – it is too harsh and violent for many readers. Although the artwork is restrained, the storytelling is not.   Even readers inured to comic book style gore and violence may find the harsh reality of this comic too intense.  Malhotra’s artwork is restrained, but he very powerfully leads the reader to make conclusions and see unpainted images that are disturbing and haunting.  Faraci’s writing, likewise, does not let the reader escape:

“It was like pounding a pumpkin, Hard at first, then suddenly it all went soft.  It all gave way.  When it was done, I wiped my gloves on her body.  It was her blood and it belonged with her.”

Wow.

None of this should take away from the fact that this is a brilliant and faithful adaptation of a classic. Fans of Dexter, Hannibal, and Patrick Bateman who want to take it to the next level need to read this.  People who want to meet a real monster need to read this.  People who want to understand what Hannah Arendt meant by ‘The Banality of Evil.’ need to read this.

Written by: by Devin Faraci 
Illustrated by: Vic Malhotra

mustread

Review Submitted by: Art Boorman

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Art Boorman has been a fan of comics, Science Fiction and Horror since the late EC era. He is a member of the Greater Colombia Fantasy Costumers Guild and a Life Member of both the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and the HP Lovecraft Historical Society. He is a retired Army NCO and currently employed as a Special Educator >> at a Maryland High School where he runs the Science Fiction and Fantasy Club.