Tag Archives: Dark Horse

Book of the week 27: Green River Killer. A True Detective Story

Front Cover of Green River Killer. A True Detective Story

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.

Art from the opening sequence of Green River Killer. A True Detective Story, published by Dark Horse Comics.

Art by Jonathan Case from the opening sequence of Green River Killer. A True Detective Story, published by Dark Horse Comics.

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.

A young Tom Jensen, portrayed by Jonathan Case in Green River Killer. A true Detective Story.

A young Tom Jensen, portrayed by Jonathan Case in Green River Killer. A true Detective Story.

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.

Gary Leon Ridgly as portrayed by Jonathan Case in Green River Killer. A True Detective Story.

Gary Leon Ridgly as portrayed by Jonathan Case in Green River Killer. A True Detective Story.

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

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Runners up for week 34: Mystery Men 5, Ultimates 1, Baltimore Curse Bells 1

2. Mystery Men #5 (Marvel comics)
Another one of those series that keeps coming back in top spots on this website. Sadly, the same applies to this series as for Xombi: ‘At least it will be over soon’. Issue five is another great one, I can’t believe this is the first collaboration of this creative team. Writer David Liss (Black Panther: The Man Without Fear, as well as books without pictures and many, many letters) and artist Patrick Zircher (Cable & Deadpool , Spider-man: Noir) these guys are obviously insanely talented. While no new characters are introduced in this classic tale of Marvel pulp heroes during the interbellum, we finally get to see Nox in all her curvaceous evilness, we also witness an interesting change in the main adversary the General. Nothing mind blowing about this series, but man it’s just crafted impossibly good. In this issue we learn that the group of vigilantes has split in two, the Operative, the Aviatrix and the Revenant reject the Surgeon’s methods (‘I like it when their veins are easy to find’). The Surgeon however, comes across Achilles and they form their own dynamic duo. In the end, all heroes meet again and they confront the General in his new (and even more monstrous) form, a struggle that doesn’t fare well for our pulp heroes.
Art:9               Writing:9                    Overall:9

 3. Ultimates #1 (Marvel comics)
Yay! Finally a new installment of the Ultimates that looks as good as it reads! One issue in, I am really, really digging it. While I think the quality was a little less than that of Xombi and Mystery Men, this was flat out the favorite thing I read this week. I have a soft spot for the original two volumes of the Ultimates by Mark Millar and Brian Hitch and this series is tapping back into that. It’s superheroes mixed with politics, realism, intelligence and intrigue and reads like the original Ultimates mixed with a little Queen and Country. Nick Fury is back in the saddle and it’s shown that he has his hands full as we follow him in the ops room, where he is dividing his attention between a border dispute between Uruguay and Argentine that is escalating into a nuclear conflict, rising tensions between the EU and the Norse Gods, a civil war in Thailand, Captain America gone missing, and to top it all off he gets into contact with the evil Reed Richards and his mysterious German-based community. This is writer Jonathan Hickman firing on all cylinders, it’s smart, it’s an info dump, it’s witty and it’s very well written. The pencils by Esad Ribic were great too, I think he can still improve a little. Some scenes looked perfect, others looked near perfect.
Art:8.3                        Writing:8.9                 Overall:8.6

4. Baltimore. The Curse Bells #1 (Dark Horse comics)
I was late for the first series, but now I’m loving this thing from the getgo. I have no idea if the world of Baltimore is connected to the Hellboy-verse, and I have not read the novel which introduced the character. Yet I didn’t have any problem getting into the story during the first series. This new volume explains enough to not have to read anything prior to this. Baltimore hunts vampires, and one in particular. He does this in Germany and Austria during the First World War, only the war has come to a halt because of a plague which is linked to the vampire epidemic. In this new series he continues his hunt, kills a lot of vampires and comes across an entirely new development concerning the vampires. Great atmospheric art by Ben Stenbeck, as can be expected from a book with Mike Mignola’s name on it. The writing by Mignola and Cristopher Golden is just as atmospheric, we really get a feel of the times and the way people think and talk about things like vampire’s and plagues.
Art:8                Writing:9                    Overall:8.5