"White Knuckle" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Markosia
Written by Cy Dethan
Illustrated by Valia Kapadai
2012, 97 Pages
Graphic Novel released on June 13th, 2012
What if that crazy old man you see muttering to himself on the bus was really a serial killer thirty years ago? It would probably make you think twice about insulting the guy. White Knuckle picks up with such a character, but he's on the path of redemption, which has many offshoots leading back the way he came: over the bodies of dozens of victims.
The Gripper terrorized a small English town, strangling the life out of various people over the course of several years. Each time he did it, he saw the face of a demon replace that of his victim, with accompanying voices begging the killer to release it. He went into hiding after he was spotted by a young girl as he choked her mother to death. That little girl is now a woman with a child of her own, but the Gripper has kept tabs on her all this time, keeping a bizarre scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings and photographs. He inadvertently ends up saving her son from harm. This throws him into an uncomfortable position, but one that he could use to make some small bit of atonement for the sins he's committed.
Mr. Rigel (aka the Gripper) is an interesting character study. He's tortured by what he's done but he's not necessarily sorry that he killed all those people. It wasn't until this young girl (Michelle) caught him in the act that he started to feel any sort of remorse. We don't get specifics as to what he's been doing for the past thirty years but it's clear that it's been a solitary life filled with struggles. He wants to move on, but can't bring himself to let go of what he's done or his connection to Michelle. As he gets closer and closer to her and her family, this becomes harder and harder to do. Author Cy Dethan flashes between memories of Rigel killing people and spending time with Michelle and her son Neil. He's finally getting hit with the full force of what he's done.
I love this dynamic which under normal circumstances would ultimately lead to a climactic ending with Michelle finding out the truth about Rigel's past. I won't go into details about what exactly happened, but I can say that I felt a bit let down by what I expected to be a bigger, more emotional scene. I was left hanging right when the excitement was at its peak, as if the writer just ran out of room for the story.
I went back and forth on the artwork from Valia Kapadai on White Knuckle. At times her art matches up with the dark recesses of Rigel's mind. It's a scary place to be and his view of the world is twisted and distorted. Otherwise, Kapadai's work is very unpolished, like this is a first draft. She nails the character of Rigel and the innocence of Michelle, but most of the other characters look awkward, as if they're not all the way there.
White Knuckle pulled me in very quickly due to the character development. It presented a tortured soul who has done heinous things in his past but is trying to make some sort of amends before he passes on. It's the kind of situation that you can't help but watch because you just have to see how things get resolved. That finale left something to be desired, as did the art, but it didn't take too much away from the story.