Green River Killer: A True Detective Story

greenriverGreen River Killer ★★★★
by Jeff Jensen, Jonathan Case (Illustrator)
Dark Horse Originals, 2011

My reading/reviewing year is really getting off to an excruciatingly, abysmal slow start. I blame my Netflix addiction that includes a recent binge viewing of The Shield (from which I’m still recovering). In November, I became obsessed with Sarah Koenig’s Serial podcast and literally lost weeks. Archer is back in full throttle splendor — “We need a minute Captain Shit Nuts!” — soon to be followed by the return of Season 3 of The Americans on the 28th.

Throw in work, sleep, eating, alcohol consumption and Words With Friends, and it’s no wonder I’ve fallen way behind.

Zodiac_DVD_WS_Front_Final

Zodiac (2007)

I don’t have a real penchant towards reading about serial killers. I don’t even like them in my movies usually. However, like most things, there are exceptions. One of my favorite films of all time is David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007). It’s an incredible movie that takes a cold case with a million moving pieces that went unsolved for decades and distills it down into this cerebral and frightening coherent narrative about obsession and loss of self. To this day, the Zodiac killer remains unidentified and the lingering torment and regret laid on the shoulders of the men who chased him in vain cannot be underestimated.

The Green River Killer was another notorious serial killer who almost got away. Gary Ridgway was eventually convicted of murdering 49 women but it’s believed his kill count is much higher. The Green River murders began in 1982 and hit their peak in 1984. However, Ridgway would not be identified and arrested until 2001 thanks to DNA evidence.

Gary Ridgway

Gary Ridgway

The lead investigator for The Green River Killer was a man by the name of Tom Jensen. When the Green River Task Force was eventually disbanded, Jensen became the sole investigator. It was a case that would continue to haunt and obsess him right up until the day of Ridgway’s arrest. It’s a story that Jensen’s son wants to tell, an intimate look at his father’s entanglement with evil and desperation, frustration and determination.

I never would have believed this story could be contained in the black and white panels of a 200 page graphic novel. But contained it is. Jensen’s version is a remarkable example of gritty police procedural balanced with a son’s touching tribute to a father he obviously respects and cherishes deeply. The storytelling is sharp and rhythmic, bouncing back and forth from past to present in a seamless montage of events that is impressive. There are hardly any visual or textual clues to orient the reader in time; nevertheless, I was rarely left wondering ‘where’ and ‘when’ in the story I was.

This is one graphic novel that packs an emotional wallop. Not just because of the subject matter, but for the way in which the story is told.

A lot can happen in the middle of nowhere

Revival, Volume One: You’re Among Friends (Revival #1) ★★★★
Tim Seely (Story), Mike Norton (Graphic Art)
Image Comics, 2012

Revival 1This is a re-read for me, in preparation of hitting up Volume 2, and I gotta say, I’m still excited about what this series has to offer. It’s a claustrophobic tale set in a quarantined Midwestern town that has recently fallen prey to a rash of re-animations. The dead are coming back to life, but not in the way you think, or with the same dramatic gore and apocalyptic consequences we have come to expect from the walking dead.

This isn’t a traditional zombie tale. First and foremost it’s a story about a cast of characters thrust into a very unusual and distressing situation. What happens when the dead and gone who have been grieved and laid to rest suddenly barge back into our lives again, not just walking, but talking? With needs, and fears, and memories?

What happens when the outside world beyond the borders of your sleepy little town becomes fearful and paranoid and only wants to contain whatever mystery is unfolding in your backyard, holding you under scrutiny and behind roadblocks leaving your town to not only fend for itself but ride out whatever traumas yet to unfold?

Officer Dana Cypress is caught right in the middle of the inexplicable “revivals” along with her sister Martha (or Em) who has a terrible secret. Then there’s the rookie journalist May who senses there’s much more going on in the town than meets the eye.

revival 1 sceneThis is a story that takes its time, and by the end leaves you with way more questions than answers. But the pull of the mystery is so addictive, you’ll be desperate to get your hands on the next volume. It’s a story that’s rich in atmosphere, a creepy-crawly sensation of impending doom, but doom that’s on a more personal scale of individual tragedy, rather than unleashing a free-floating anxiety for the fate of the entire human race.

The graphic art is crisp and clean and terrifying where it needs to be. The nature of small town life is realistically portrayed and the panel after panel of snow and cold had me thinking of Fargo and that a lot can happen in the middle of nowhere. My one complaint is that the three main women characters (Dana, her sister Em, and reporter May) are very similar in appearance, at least at first glance. I was better equipped to tell them apart this time around, but it still took some practice. It’s a shame that they should be artistically rendered so similarly, because as characters, each woman is very different with her own distinctive voice and personality.

Do yourself a favor and give this one a try.

The Walking Dead – where do we go from here?

walking dead 17As promised, here is a link to the project I just finished working on with fellow Goodreader, Kemper. Entitled This Zombie Apocalypse is Getting Too Depressing, Kemper and I weigh in on the unrelenting darkness of the series and talk about whether or not Kirkman has gone too far with this latest volume – Something To Fear.

***Spoiler-phobes beware*** This is a frank discussion of the comics up to Volume 17 (Issue #102) and spoilers for AMC’s Walking Dead Season 3 finale.

About us:

When not canning food in preparation for the coming zombie apocalypse, Trudi writes the Busty Book Bimbo blog in which she reviewed the latest Walking Dead collection..

The basement of Kemper’s Book Blog is filled with toilet paper and Scotch. That’s not because of zombies. He just likes to keep a lot of both on hand. He also reviewed The Walking Dead Vol. 17..

Kirkman, how could you?!

walking dead 17
The Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to Fear ★★★★
Kirkman, Adlard, Rathburn
Image Comics, 2012

***Warning: The following review contains spoilers!!!***

Holy moses, I just knew I was being set up in the last volume. I knew it!!! My momma didn’t raise no fools.

But that hurt. A lot. You’d think I’d be so numb by now that nothing would really get past my defenses anymore but apparently I can still be shivved right in the back and fall to my knees screaming. Watching Glenn go out like that was brutal. It really tore me up. So prolonged. So bloody. And that final guttural scream for Maggie. Do_Not_Want_-_300::clutches chest::[Watching Glen go out like that was brutal. It really tore me up. (hide spoiler)]

This new baddie Negan is a real piece of psychotic work. He makes the Governor look like a misunderstood, tree-hugging hippie who just wishes the kids these days would stay off his damn lawn.

Where can the story possibly go from here? Watching Rick break was tough. I know he’s told the community they’re rolling over…for now, but he’s obviously got something else planned. That last panel when he sends Jesus to follow the baddie back to Negan’s camp to spy and gather intelligence tells us that.

Living as slaves is no option. Something has to be done, and you can bet it’s going to involve A LOT more bloodshed. Even if Rick’s group triumphs against all odds over these animals, what would they have really won? Won’t there always be another Governor or Negan around the corner? Wiping the zombies off the planet is an easier task I figure than neutralizing all the psychos.[Watching Rick break was tough. I know he’s told the community they’re rolling over…for now, but he’s obviously got something else planned. That last panel when he sends Jesus to follow the baddie back to Negan’s camp to spy and gather intelligence tells us that. Living as slaves is no option. Something has to be done, and you can bet it’s going to involve A LOT more bloodshed. Even if Rick’s group triumphs against all odds over these animals, what would they have really won? Won’t there always be another Governor or Negan around the corner? Wiping the zombies off the planet is an easier task I figure than neutralizing all the psychos. (hide spoiler)]

Can’t get enough Walking Dead? Stay tuned. I’m working on a project with fellow blogger and Goodreads compadre  Kemper where we weigh in on the unrelenting darkness of the series and talk about whether or not Kirkman has gone too far with this latest volume and Glenn’s awful death. It will be appearing exclusively on Shelf Inflicted and I will link to it here when it becomes available.

Stephen King, vampires and the American West

American Vampire, Vol. 1 ★★★★

by Scott Snyder

Formula for Success:
Stephen King +
Scary-ass, blood-thirsty vampires +
Bone-chilling, full-color graphic illustrations = Awesome

Steve Niles rocked my world with 30 Days of Night – those vampires kick ass. I was actually really pleased with the movie too. I love how Niles re-imagines the vampire, stealing it back from the trashy, paranormal bodice rippers! For far too long vampires have been distinguished aristocrats, Byronic heroes, or sexy-emo-pouting “bad boys” (don’t even american vampireget me started on the very existence of Edward Cullen). The vampires that descend on Barrow are ruthless, and everything vampires should be if you want to scare the heck out of someone — merciless, bloodthirsty villains with no conscience. Niles should be given a medal for his contribution to both the literary and vampire film canon. For far too long the debonair, smooth-talking vampire has ruled.

Stephen King thinks so too, which is why Scott Snyder did not have to twist his arm too hard to get him on board with this project. Snyder went fishing for an intro,  and what he got instead was a full-on, hard core collaboration. King is all over American Vampire, and the “wild west” themes found in his parts of the story have a lot of Dark Tower energy running through them. I really half-expected Roland to walk right into the story at some point. He may yet, who knows? And can I just give a shout out to the toe-tag? ::grin::

I’ve been drawn into the world, and the notion of a “new” kind of vampire that can walk in daylight at war with the ancient Euro-vampires is intriguing. I will definitely come back for more of this series.

The last man on Earth is definitely not alone

Y: The Last Man – The Deluxe Edition Book One ★★★★★
Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra (Illustrator), José Marzán Jr. (Illustrator)
Vertigo, 2008

y deluxe 1Pardon me while I flail about in fangirl mode, but OMFG and all that is holy, Y: The Last Man is totally a.w.e.s.o.m.e!!!! I didn’t think the graphic novel format would ever win me over entirely, but it’s happened – I’m in love – hook, line, sinker, fully, completely. Not only is this an addictive premise taken to the extreme reaches of the most fertile imagination, it’s brimming with fully fleshed out characters who live and breathe with histories, motives, strengths and vulnerabilities. The best part? This edition only collects Issues 1-10; I still have another 50 to look forward to!

How’s this for a premise? – last guy on Earth is not alone — literally. Yorick is a hapless, near to agoraphobic, practicing escape artist, madly in love with a young woman a hemisphere away in Australia when a sudden unexplained plague hits the planet and kills every last mammal carrying a Y chromosome. Every last mammal that is except for Yorick and his pet Capuchin monkey Ampersand. Think it would be a laff riot to be the last guy on Earth surrounded by a few billion ladies? Think again gentlemen. Welcome to your new nightmare.

Vaughan’s world-building here post-plague is incredibly detailed and believable. With all men suddenly blipped out of existence women aren’t standing around singing Kumbaya (did you really think we would?) and the world does not become a better place. Far from it. Vaughan deftly explores the harsh realities that must be faced when such a monumental, unpredictable, counter-evolutionary shift happens to humans with no warning.

The graphics are superior; each character has their own unique look and the action is propelled along not just by Vaughan’s ripping dialogue, but by Pia Guerra’s sharp interpretation of the action. I love that I get so much story delivered on such a small canvas. I could have taken days to plow through a 650 page novel and not felt as sated or panting for more, the way I felt here after indulging in a mere 250 pages of colorful, comic book cells. That’s storytelling magic. I can’t wait for more!

My deepest thanks to my graphic-novel reading friends who kept throwing this series title at me for ages – I finally get it now!!!

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