59: Torso: A True Crime Graphic Novel by Brian Michael Bendis

Torso: A True Crime Graphic Novel by Brian Michael Bendis & Marc Andreyke (US) - (Canada)

Pages: no page numbers but approx. 200
Ages: 18+
Finished: Feb. 21, 2012
First Published: 2003
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Graphic novel, True Crime, Serial Killer
Rating: 4/5

First sentence: "You're it."

Publisher's Summary: "The gripping tale of Eliot Ness' chase of America's first serial killer: the mysterious torso killer!"

Acquired: Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

Reason for Reading:  I was posting my review for "Green River Killer" on one of my book sites and this was recommended for me.  I immediately knew I had to read it. 

I'm pretty savvy in this field but admit I didn't know anything about this case.  I've heard the moniker "The Torso Killer" before but knew nothing of the details.  Billed here as America's first serial killer, that is pure hype.  The Torso Killer went on his spree in the mid-1930s and I can think of at least one earlier American serial killer who worked during the late 1890s Dr. HH Holmes aka The Beast of Chicago.  But putting that aside, this is still a very early serial killer case, before the days when police really knew how to handle this type of crime and the case went unsolved, and remains so to this day.  Elliot Ness, was slightly involved in this case but history has added him to be much more directly involved than he actually was.

This book takes the actual events surrounding the case and adds artistic license to imagine a possible scenario and solution to the murders which heavily involves Ness.  It is a gripping story, which I found fascinating and had me looking up the actual facts once I'd finished reading.  There is a plethora of contemporary material still available at museums and in archives from the case but the actual police crime files have disappeared.  The artwork is quite amazing, though it may not be to everyone's taste.  I must say, I was really taken with it.  Done in black and white, we have a mixture of medias as both illustration and photographs are combined throughout. Sometimes a photographic background is used upon which the characters are drawn and sometimes contemporary photographs of the times are used as frames within the comic.  It is highly stylized art.  Even the text itself is stylized with times when one must turn the book sideways to read the text and even a couple of instances when one kept turning the book around and around as the text was written in a spiral.  This all fit in very well with the case, mood and atmosphere though and was not contrived at all.  I enjoyed the book for it's entertainment value, it's factual representation and the imaginative process of presenting a possible solution.  Some of the authors' fictional details were out there though and not appreciated by this reader, for example, adding a major fictional homos*xual character for the sole purposes of forcing an out-of-place dialogue, especially in the 1930s, between two authority figures to convince one that the killer being a pervert and a homos*xual did not mean the same thing.  There was no indication of the killer's orientation mentioned otherwise in the book or in any of my online research (he killed both sexes) to make this issue even relevant to the story.  One more fabulous part of the book is the final several pages contain large photographs from the case and clippings of actual newspaper items.  As with the photos within the text, some are rather gruesome.  An interesting unsolved crime!


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