A NAIL IN THE HEART
by Ian Daffern. Art by Noel Tuazon, Shari Chankhamma, and Frank Fiornetino
Available at iandaffern.com
Ian Daffern’s work as a comic writer is a favourite here at WRP, and I was excited to pick up A Nail in the Heart, his own ‘short story collection’ of sorts, if only to see how well his penchant for punchy dialogue and pace translates to serious subject matter. Even though the stories here left me wanting more I was not disappointed–by his own admission in the back of A Nail in the Heart, this is Daffern’s first collection. “Not enough tracks yet for an EP–think of it as a single,” and as a single, this three-comic collection packs a modest punch.
Each story is penned by Daffern and illustrated by a different artist, with three vastly differing styles. The first, “Bring Me the Head of Osama Bin Ladin,” [sic] illustrated in scratchy notebook-noir by Noel Tuazon, sets the tone for the collection as heavy and unrelenting. Centered around a CIA agent tasked with, well, literally performing the titular task, Daffern is showing his true colours with narration that seems to dance around direct points while actually delivering heaps of backstory and plot. Tuazon’s loose style limits us from getting to know the character’s emotions enough, and weakens the critical moral-choice-moment for the lead character, but the story itself is twisted and unrelenting.
Centered around a photographer and his producer trying to capture an elusive bird, “Bird of Paradise” follows with much cleaner line work from Shari Chankhamma and a more abstract, though equally dismal look at human connectedness. The only weakness of this collection starts to show here as Daffern’s ideas are too big for the 8-page format. As with the first story there’s a lot of characterization I feel I’m missing out on given the originality of the concept and the depth of the dialogue. It’s not a bad story, I just want more of it. Plus, the payoff on this one is completely unpredictable and, without spoiling anything, is the kind of dark humor I’ve come to expect from the writer.
Concluding the collection is “Eyes in the Sky,” which is a kind of middle ground between the heavily narrated opener and the more sparsely characterized middle story. Centering around a couple lost in the boonies, (featuring excellent shade work by artist Frank Fiornetino), “Eyes in the Sky” offers Daffern at his best, writing dialogue for characters that both realistically annoy and compel the reader. A pitch-perfect back and forth between a condo couple lost in the forest concludes with a predictable amount of narrative insanity for Daffern, but made me feel for them as their story… reached its conclusion.
If the single is this good, I’d definitely buy the EP, but I’d recommend Daffern kick the ball a little farther and shoot for a Long Play on his next effort. He’s proven that he can carve characters out of marble, but I want more pages than A Nail in the Heart can give me. There is something to be said for brevity, as each story is as final, hard-hitting, staggering and painful as I would imagine a nail in the heart would be, but I can’t be faulted for complaining that each of these stories could have been their own 30 page masterpiece. Regardless, with brevity as his nail gun Daffern shoots to kill with these three stunners that push ‘darkly funny’ to the edge of ‘uncomfortable tears,’ and if he misses when he shoots its not for lack of trying.