Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: Thumbprint by Joe Hill

Title: Thumbprint
Author: Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella, Vic Malhotra (illustrator)
Publication Date: 2013
Target Age Group:
My Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

Book Jacket Blurb:

Private Mallory Grennan had done terrible things as an Abu Ghraib prison worker. After being discharged from the army, Mal thought she was leaving her sins behind to start a new life back home. But some things can't be left behind - some things don't want to be left behind!

My Review:

Thumbprint is a graphic novel adaptation of Joe Hill's short story of the same name, published in 2007. The version I read is a hard-bound collection of all the Thumbprint issues, which also includes the original short story as well as another of Joe Hill's graphic novels, Kodiak.

My review is based on this particular hardbound version and all the stories included inside.

First, I have to say I find it interesting to see the graphic novel interpretation of the short story "Thumbprint". The way it has been interpreted makes it a VERY different story.

Both have the same essential plot. Mal is ex-army and involved in terrible goings on while working at the Abu Ghraib prison. Now that she is home and trying to resume a more normal life, she begins receiving mysterious letters in the mail containing only a single thumbprint. She, and the reader, quickly realize the threatening nature of these letters and the fact that someone knows about her checkered past. The ratcheting up of the tension in these stories is done very well. I also especially love the grittiness of the artwork in the graphic novel version.

The major difference between the two, however, and the main reason for my strange grading of this book above, is the way Mal is portrayed in both versions. In the short story version, Mal is NOT a very sympathetic character. You can tell she is a cold person, even before she enlists in the army, and her character doesn't change throughout the story. In the graphic novel version, however, you get the sense that deep down Mal is a good person, but something snapped in her during her time in the arm and she's now a haunted person trying to resume a normal life but unable to. This version of the story is much better in my opinion. I can get emotionally behind her, whereas I couldn't in the original short story.

Finally, the very brief graphic novel excerpt Kodiak is an interesting short, unrelated epilogue to this book. The story's theme is a simple one, about how you shouldn't judge by appearances, about the nature of relaying stories about real-life events, and about how they can sensationalize and blow the truth way out of proportion. Two boys hang around the home of a man, Dominico, who's been scarred, and they speculate about the nature of these scars and of the man himself. Then you find out his story, which is told compellingly through both story and images, about his confrontation with a giant bear. I wish there were more of this story and these characters, but it does seem to be complete in and of itself. It sounds like what's included in this book is simply an excerpt, but I'm not sure. In any case, I was happy with its inclusion.