Written by: Matt Molgaard
Mark Kidwell may be best known for his work with Image Comics and his popular throwback zombie run, ’68. That said, you may be familiar with his actual Bump comic, which Fangoria Comics initially released in 2007, not too far off from when I (coincidentally) began contributing for Fango in late 2008. While not a seasoned novelist, Mark’s been writing some wicked material for years, and if you’re a fan of graphic novels or genre related comics (Mark’s put in work on plenty of titles other than ’68 and Bump), you just might be familiar with the man’s work.
If the name doesn’t ring an immediate bell, don’t be too disconcerted. As noted, Kidwell’s still relatively new to the realm of the novel, but he’s going to be here for some time, and he’s going to give you a reason to remember his name. This guy is an absolute lunatic (believe me, I say that in complimentary fashion) who crafts work that remains ingrained in the psyche long after the pages have ceased to turn. The fact of the matter is, I own a copy of Bump #1 – and more than likely picked it up at convention – may very well have met the man face-to-face some years ago (depending upon which cons Mark attended circa 2008-2009), and heading into this one, didn’t really remember (perhaps it’s a matter of registering, rather than remembering) the name, or for that matter Kidwell’s specific genre contributions.
That all changes now. Mark Kidwell’s a name I’ve added to the “must-read” list. Be it comic or novel, I’m interested in Mark’s work… Hell, I’m really, really interested in Mark’s work.
If in your face, chaotic violence and heaping helpings of graphic carnage are your forte, Bump is going to steal your heart (Edgar Dill might find a way to steal your soul in the process). This story unravels much as you’d expect an extremely detailed comic book to, flying by the mind’s eye, wild imagery creeping into the creases of the imagination, practically dancing from the page. Appearing, hacking, slashing; disappearing, only to pop up from dense foliage for one final scare. That’s the kind of novel that Bump is… visceral… animalistic. Unforgiving. That may be the best adjective in this case: unforgiving.
In addition to the obvious comic friendly style, the story really does feel like a film script as much as a graphic novel. It’s rare to read a story that screams for cinematic transfer (I think most would agree that novels typically trump films in terms of overall quality, in large part due to the imaginative freedom we have when reading a story rather than watching it), but Bump is the exception to the rule. This is a tale that needs to be filmed, and by a quality filmmaker at that. We don’t need to see this one hit the movie market after a quick assembly by an unknown filmmaker with a nonexistent budget, we need to see Bump as it should be seen: financially backed and in the hands of a capable director. Preferably a fearless director with a penchant for extreme visuals… say, Eli Roth, for example. That’s a man who could make a fun flick out of Bump without altering the story in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience. I like the idea of a Bump film, un-molested by studio execs, delivered in the raw fashion that Kidwell tells it. Sounds like a thrilling ride to me.
As for the story, you’re not going to get a wealth of detail from me. You’ve got to read this on your own and reach your own assertions without the intake of an advance spoiler. A brief rundown however shouldn’t kill you. Bump is the story of Edgar Dill, a psychopathic, woodcarving serial killer who met the fate of personal vindication rather than genuine justice. He was disposed of in inhumane fashion by Sheriff Lundy some three decades ago, but his spirit has lived on in the Dill Farmhouse ever since. A series of unfortunate events wakes this sleeping beast, who’s now returned to continue his carving ways and if possible, exact a little revenge in the process.
Trust me, there’s a whole load of awesome details I’ve omitted. Many of which are highly relevant to the story’s conflict and resolution. You’ve just got to step out on the limb and take the chance with Bump. It’s certainly a piece of work worthy of looking into.
Kidwell’s prose isn’t without flaw, and he’s not necessarily bringing a new measure of originality to the table, but he’s extremely good at what he does: create shock and serious awe. There are a few moments in the later portions of the novel in which Kidwell’s narrative feels slightly murky, and his firm grasp on description jumps the track a time or two during some of the more insane, action packed sequences, but he never stumbles to the point in which you actually question his worth as a storyteller. He’s completely in the moment for Bump, and the few minor hiccups you may identify quickly fall from relevance as the novel burns away at an accelerated rate, begging to be read; sating the appetite of the hungry horror hound in the process.
Bump is a certified winner in my mind. Kidwell’s ability to tell an outlandishly sadistic tale without being offensively sadistic is unique. I’ve read stories of this nature in the past, meant to leave your jaw glued to the floor and your heart pushing at the inner workings of the ribcage, and I’ve frequented one major issue in the process: A lot of novels of similar ilk fail in the sense that they lose their humanity, exchanging anything redeemable for the overtly repulsive, happily embracing that downward spiral in the process. Bump is indeed sadistic, and it is indeed going to leave you a bit unsettled, but there are some very relatable characters alive in these pages, there’s an infectious quality in the pacing of the tale and the big payoff is simultaneously jarring and satisfying. Bump sounds like the kind of novel destined to sputter and fail, but it doesn’t, at all. It succeeds for all the right reasons while steering clear of potential pitfalls. It wins the reader over because it’s wild fun, not a simple-minded, cruel concoction.
Mark Kidwell is a name to remember, and Bump is a novel to purchase ASAP. You can get your hands on it right here.