This comic started life as a short story from Joe Hill. It was published in “20th Century Ghosts” and it was damn good. It’s a simple short with a flowing voice and a great ending. To see it repurposed for a one-shot makes sense. The story lends itself to the four color page, and Ciaramella and Howard do a very decent job of proving this fact. This is a standalone tale but it’s also an origin story, and it’s so good because it manages to be both and also highly enjoyable.
The main argument for this tale is the sale of the magic of childhood — the fact that we sell it away at such a young age and then that it can so easily be sold back to us through a story like this. Eric had a cape that could make him fly. It caused a great accident, something that probably scarred him for the rest of his life. But there’s the possibility that Eric only found the perfect excuse and was broken before his fall anyway. There’s a duality to his character that makes the tale more interesting once he is reunited with his flying cape after a life wasted. Are his actions the childish glee of playing a game? Or is he responsible for his actions?
Eric is an interesting lead because he’s in charge of the tale and you just can’t trust him. He’s unreliable. He makes himself out to be the victim, but who wouldn’t? He blames everyone else and isn’t likeable. It’s hard to decipher if he is simply misunderstood or just someone you need to give up on quicker than you normally would. That’s a problem that plagues other characters and it’s one we don’t get resolved until the final two pages. Eric might not be endearing but he does make for blistering pages. He’s the sort of leading man you don’t want to watch but you simply must.
Ciaramella handles the adaptation of the source material very well, in most scenes. Hill is a phenomenal writer and his prose offers many great lines for Ciaramella to play with. He does so extremely well in that he steals lines but marries them to specific art that make them feel more trained, more weighted. It’s a shame that he handles the final sequence with new words, but he does end on the perfect note, with a very majestic splash page.
Howard’s art feels different from the average stuff. It’s a little quirkier, a little more emotive. He makes this all feel like an oddity, a “Twilight Zone” aside, and that works to the benefit of the tale. Daniel also adds to the art with his colors; They make each page feel more vibrant and alive. He makes it all feel a touch surreal and much more fun than something this dark deserves to be.
As a one-shot, “The Cape” is amazing fun and I will read more than once very well. You will not pick the ending and it will keep you thinking long after you stop. I also appreciate the modality of the final caption which tells us this title/character will be back in 2011. That’s a very good thing and I’ll be around to read the new tales of Eric and see what life decisions he makes after his actions here. This is one of the best origin stories of the year and it introduces a villain you absolutely will want to read more about.