Best Shots Review: THE KILLER INSIDE ME #1 Captures Original Novel & Its 'Elegantly Disturbing Tone' (10/10)

"The Killer Inside Me" preview
Credit: Robert Hack (IDW Publishing)
Credit: Vic Malhotra (IDW Publishing)

The Killer Inside Me #1
Written by Devin Faraci
Art by Vic Malhotra and Jason Millet
Letters by Christa Miesner
Published by IDW Publishing
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

IDW Publishing takes readers into the mind of a sociopath this week in The Killer Inside Me #1. While Jim Thompson’s seminal novel has been loosely adapted twice for screens thus far, writer Devin Faraci takes a more literal approach to his comic book version, translating Thompson’s poetic prose as close to word-perfect as possible and the issue is all the more strong for it.

Rendering Faraci’s faithful script is artist Vic Malhotra and colorist Jason Millet, both of whom bring a stylish warmth to the debut, along with a truly creepy and coiled snake like take on the title’s lead, Lou Ford. Though this isn’t the first time this story has been adapted, and it certainly won’t be the last, The Killer Inside Me #1 captures the specificity of the original novel as well as its elegantly disturbing tone.

Credit: Vic Malhotra (IDW Publishing)

There are no shortage of compelling killers in comic books, but there is something much more chilling about Sheriff Lou Ford. Right from the start, Devin Faraci lets readers know that Ford isn’t just some run-of-the-mill kill-crazed character. Using much of Thompson’s narration, Faraci heaps tension and, at times, beauty onto the page as Ford walks us through his thought processes and personal philosophies, all the while trying to quell the rising “sickness” inside him brought on by meeting and falling into a tryst with a local prostitute. While that description may conjure up the image of several famous serial killers in media, I would remind readers that Lou Ford served as the blueprint for all of them and, after reading this debut, it is easy to see how he inspired a whole new generation of smiling and affable killers.

Credit: Vic Malhotra (IDW Publishing)

That also speaks to just how scary Lou Ford really is; he’s painfully normal and hides a deep well of intelligence behind his buffoonish persona. It’s that “aw, shucks” attitude that makes the few sudden displays of violence and the frank look into Ford’s disturbing past depicted here all the more shocking. Faraci smartly lulls us into Ford’s life with scenes of him happily speaking to the cook at the local greasy spoon while still weaving in the darkness hidden right behind his eyes and how off putting he can be to people.

Faraci’s delicate dancing between likable and violent reminded me a lot of how Inglorious Basterds portrayed villain Hans Landa. Even though Ford talks about his “sickness” and even somewhat gloats about getting away with a heinous assault in his past, you still can’t believe that he would ever do these things until you see him do it, much like Landa and his infamous final meeting with Bridget von Hammersmark. It is a fine line to walk, but Devin Faraci and The Killer Inside Me #1 walk it with style.

Credit: Vic Malhotra (IDW Publishing)

And speaking of style, artist Vic Malhotra and colorist Jason Millet provide this debut with plenty of dry Texas visuals, anchored by their lantern-jawed design of Lou Ford. While a title like Southern Bastard provides an exaggerated look at southern life, Malhotra nails the mundane hollowed out look of certain areas of Texas with sparse backgrounds, wide grassland vistas, and nondescript storefronts. Colorist Jason Millet also adapts well to mercurial Texas weather, shifting from warm oranges during the gloaming and settling on pale lime greens as the sun goes down. But while this ghost town approach to Texas is great, it is Lou Ford that once again steals the show. Malhotra renders Lou with a snarl throughout and a dark light behind his eyes as he cuts through each panel like a handsome predator. Colorist Millet also heightens the explosiveness of his violent acts by framing each one with either an explosion of red or yellow, forcing the reader to only focus on the violence and its effect.

While film has fumbled with the story of Lou Ford, comic books provide a reverent stage for The Killer Inside Me. Devin Faraci, Vic Malhotra and Jason Millet provide an almost direct translation of Jim Thompson’s work, never once shying away from the more unpleasant aspects of the original work, and using Thompson’s own prose as a weapon instead of a crutch to be relied on. You never know what is lurking in the mind of those around you, but The Killer Inside Me #1 shows you exactly what Lou Ford is thinking, and while it isn’t easy to take it, it is impossible to look away.

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