It doesn't take long for Tom Dare's grim plight to reveal itself: after a few small symptoms (a moment of stiffness as he attempts to play keyboards at a House of Blues concert, a certain grayness on one of his fingernails), it quickly becomes apparent that Thomas is inexplicably turning to stone. It's a malady he apparently inherited from his father, and it's seemingly incurable. All that he (and we) can do is watch as the poor guy transforms into a statue.
As dramatized by Joe Casey and Charlie Adlard in the new graphic novel, Rock Bottom (AiT/Planet Lar), Dare's tale is a dark one that at first put me in mind of Stephen King's Thinner. In both horror tales, a flawed common guy is suddenly forced to deal with an accelerating physical change that'll ultimately destroy him. But where King's diminishing protagonist spent most of his book denying his personal responsibilities, Dave is more honest with himself.
An unfaithful husband, unwilling would-be father, he nonetheless manages to acquit himself with a surprise act of heroism that Ben Grim would recognize. (When we see an "artist's rendition" of our hero after his story hits the news, it even resembles Jack Kirby's earliest version of The Thing.) It's not enough to stave off the inevitable, but it does make him a national legend.
Casey's script is clear and straightforward, both pitiless in its acknowledgment of Dare's considerable failings and empathetic to his dilemma. The story's central irony – that the closer our hero gets to becoming a petrified statue, the more he discovers his humanity (in this, Dare's transmutation could be a stand-in for any number of debilitating diseases) – is an obvious one, but Casey resists the urge to belabor it. In this, he's abetted by Adlard's black-and-white art, which is surprisingly subdued in contrast to Adlard's heavily darkened inkwork for a previous collaboration with Casey, the Eisner-indebted Codeflesh.