So what do you think my reaction is going to be, based on all that you’ve read here at the lair of my love for Joe Hill, when I stumble upon a graphic novel based on one of his short stories? Um. Let me think.
I’m going to grab it from the shelf like I’m a wild dingo and it’s the first food I’ve seen in a week, and I’m going devour it in one sitting, that’s what’s going to happen.
So it was with The Cape. Although, for full disclosure, this graphic novel is based on a short story by Hill as translated for a comic by Jason Ciaramella, with art by Zach Howard and Nelson Daniel. This being said, I don’t know exactly what comes from Hill’s story and what might be uniquely Ciaramella. All I have to say is, whoever thought of dropping a grizzly into a convertible as retribution against the driver? That’s just mighty twisted brilliance right there.
Other than that, this graphic novel is a “what-if” tale about a young man who had a horrible accident when he was a kid, falling from a tree while playing with his brother, and never really recovered. Instead, he kind of just slides through life without drive or ambition or any will to do anything. That is, until his girlfriend breaks up with him and he finds himself living in his mother’s basement. It’s here that he discovers his mother didn’t throw away the cape he wore as a kid (and was wearing the day he fell from the tree). It’s also here that he discovers that the cape from his childhood can make him fly. Forreals.
Does he take this newfound ability as a sign that he should change his life and begin to do good? Come on, now. This is a Joe Hill story, people. Of course he doesn’t! He uses it to exact revenge on everyone he believes has wronged him. Which, by the by, leads to the grizzly bear dropped into a convertible.
To be sure, the bleakness runs thick through this tale. We begin our journey feeling sympathy for our primary character, Eric, when we learn that his father was killed in battle and Eric wears one of his dad’s Marine Corps patches on his cherished cape…and then he falls from the tree and suffers severe trauma that continues to plague him through his adolescence…but then? Then, when he returns home and discovers his cape and its powers? Not so much with the sympathy anymore. Hill’s characterization of a megalomaniacal turd blossom is overwhelmingly successful. Ciaramella breaks it all down satisfactorily for comic consumption, while Howard and Daniel provide solid, straightforward line work and coloring for the visuals.
Final Verdict: I liked this novel well enough and thought the artwork was enjoyable, but I don’t really see any reason to add this to my graphic novel collection at this time.