1. Green River Killer. A True Detective Story (Dark Horse comics, 2011)
This is one of those times that a recommendation really works out. After listening to 11 O’Clock Comics #218, I decided to pull this one out of the dusty old pile labeled ‘to read’. Despite its 225 pages, Green River Killer is a quick read (still it’s due to this baby that I didn’t get around to reading more recent stuff), there’s lots of panels with few to no words and this is the strong suit of this beautiful original graphic novel. With stark black and white art by Jonathan Case, and lean writing by Jeff Jensen, this book excels in brooding atmospheres and human emotions.
Green River Killer was the popular name given to a Washington serial killer that slew at least 48 women in the 1980’s and 90’s. This ‘graphic novel inspired by true events’ , follows detective Tom Jensen, who spent 20 years working this case. As the reader gets more engrossed in both Jensen’s career, his relentless drive for finding the killer and his personal life it becomes apparent that the case is slowly but surely taking over his life. And that’s where the uniqueness of this book comes in: author Jeff Jensen is the son of the main character and as such he has witnessed firsthand how the case of Green River Killer has affected Tom Jensen. Jeff wrote this book ‘to gain a better understanding’ and this shows in that this book is as much a detective story as a premier character study. In one of the caption boxes near the end of the book Jeff reveals a tiny bit of how he and Tom prepared for this book. It shows a lot about how emotional things must have gotten: ‘He still doesn’t speak of June 17, 2003. The details he gave me were few, and offered reluctantly.’
When you´re watching a television series like The Wire, you don´t expect to be blown away by spectacular visual effects. The same rings true for a personal, deeply psychological and procedural book as Green River Killer. While the art is certainly strong and it´s perfectly enjoyable to admire Jonathan Case his brush strokes, it also has something unremarkable to it. In this instance the art mostly seems to serve the story. And that´s perfectly fine. Where Case´s art does shine though, is in his facial expressions. Whether it´s the hauntingly empty stare of Gary Leon Ridgeway AKA the Green River Killer, or the great array of expressions of Tom Jensen, which range from angered, to saddened, to professionally detached, to horrified and uncomprehending (to name but a few) Case depicts them all in a perfectly convincing manner. This is also the case for the locations and backgrounds of the story. Without a doubt Case has put a lot of research in reconstructing all the real life scenes, and it pays off in a glow of authenticity that radiates from this book.
All in all, this is a book that will haunt me for weeks after putting it down. And will probably make for an interesting reread. I highly recommend Green River Killer to fans of the crime-, detective- and procedural genres, but honestly this is a book about real persons, with real relations being put to the test through some horrible and dark scenarios, and who doesn’t like to read that?
Art: 8.5 Writing: 9 Overall: 8.7