Book of the Month

Book of the Month – Green River Killer: A True Detective Story

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29
Pulls
Avg Rating: 5.0
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 0.0%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
Writer: Jeff Jensen
Artist: Jonathan Case
Cover Artist: Jonathan Case

Size: 240 pages
Price: 24.99

For much of the 1980s and part of the 1990s the prostitutes of the greater Seattle area were terrorized by the Green River Killer, who left a string of strangled bodies in and around the Green River for which he was named. The case haunted police for nearly two decades until a DNA match lead them to a 52 year old factory worker named Gary Leon Ridgeway who, as it turned out, was one of the most prolific serial killers in American history. He was charged with and convicted of 49 murders but eventually confessed to 71. Police believe that the actual total number of victims could be well north of 100.

This is not the story of Gary Leon Ridgeway.

I feel free to reveal the identity of the Green River Killer because the original graphic novel, Green River Killer: A True Detective Story, isn’t about the mystery of the Green River Killer’s identity. It’s not a thriller. It isn’t really about the Green River Killer at all. Rather, it’s about the lead detective on the Green River Killer Task Force, the man who doggedly and obsessively kept up the investigation for 19 years. That man was Detective Tom Jensen who not only helped catch Ridgeway but was also the father of Entertainment Weekly writer Jeff Jensen, the author of this book.

Green River Killer: A True Detective Story opens with an exceedingly creepy scene from Ridgeway’s past when, as a teenager, he tried to kill a young boy from his town because he “wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone.” Not only is this first scene extremely unsettling, it’s also a good indicator for the way the rest of the book is going to go. If I had one word to describe the tone of this book it would be unsettling. Jeff Jensen has written a lot about comic books over the years for Entertainment Weekly so you know he’s a fan. But rarely do first time comic book writers–even first timers who make a living as writers outside of comics–have such a strong handle on the form and intricacies of the medium. Green River Killer: A True Detective Story feels like it’s being guided by the steady and confident hand of a seasoned comics pro.

After Ridgeway was arrested, the police and the prosecutor’s office conducted a series of secret interrogations that were held in an office turned prison cell at the headquarters of the Green River Killer Task Force. And it is from these secret interrogations that the story unfolds in dual flashbacks. Some of the flashbacks involve Ridgeway himself as he confesses to the murder of 49 Seattle area prostitutes, and those flashbacks are as grisly and as creepy as you might expect without ever reveling the ghoulish details of the crimes. Most of the flashbacks, however, involve Detective Tom Jensen, starting from his nebulous career prospects upon graduating high school to joining the Navy to working in Naval Intelligence to joining the police to, finally, his involvement in the Green River Killer case. By the end of this book we have delved deeply into the life of Detective Jensen and we have a really strong idea as to what makes him tick and to what exactly he gave up to bring the Green River Killer to justice. If there’s one thing that this book makes clear it’s that investigating a prolific serial killer for 19 years is not easy on the psyche.

Ridgeway himself is more of a mystery in this book and that’s probably intentional because despite all the science and the psychiatry we still haven’t come up with a more accurate way to describe why serial killers are they way they are other than to say that quite clearly, as a human being, Gary Leon Ridgeway is broken. I read a lot of comic books and I feel fairly confident in saying that it’s been a long time since I have been as creeped out by anyone in a comic as mush as I was by Ridgeway. He is at times unsettlingly serene, inappropriately friendly with the police, seemingly unaware of the gravity of his situation, hopelessly naive, diabolically cunning, and also, in rare cases, remorseful and ashamed of his actions. He is impossible to pin down which might be why it’s so hard to catch these guys in the first place.

Because the writer is Detective Jensen’s son there is a strong sense of authenticity to the story. We get a glimpse behind the scenes of a real serial killer investigation, warts and all. In the afterward, Jeff Jensen says that he wrote this story to gain a better understanding of his dad and to express his love for him. Jensen does this, not through hero worship, but through showing the man for who he was: not an oversized hero but an ordinary man who gave up a lot of himself in order to bring the Green River Killer to justice. I imagine that Jeff Jensen felt a great sense of pride in writing this story, but I wonder if there was also some sense of pain in having to lay out, and thus better understand, the series of psychological hardships that his father went through during the investigation.

In addition to the authenticity in the story there is the same feeling of verisimilitude in the art. Jonathan Case provides strong black and white art work that perfectly compliments the story. Green River Killer: A True Detective Story is about people and how the awful acts that we are capable of committing effect not only ourselves and not only those around us, but complete strangers as well. There is a lot of pain and a lot of anguish in this book and it all plays out in the faces of the various characters.

As a society we seem rather serial killer obsessed. There are, right now on the air, dozens of television shows dedicated to them, both fictional and non, not to mention hundreds of films. In the fictional realm, the serial killer often comes equipped with the kind of theatrical flair more suited for comic book super villains. But the truth is far more terrifying.


Conor Kilpatrick

Seriously, don’t read this book before you go to bed.
conor@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. Glad I got a chance to pick this up! Can’t wait to read it!

  2. Thanks Conor – I saw your “teaser” for this during the 300th episode and was looking forward to your review. I ordered it today.

    I was also the one that asked for more frequent BOTM picks (yes, I know that wouldn’t make it a BOTM if it came out every couple of weeks) as many of these selections I buy sight unseen based on the Josh/Ron/Conor reviews and have greatly enjoyed them. Always looking for something good to read.

  3. I would also like to see more frequent BOTM picks.

  4. Now I regret not preordering this

  5. I read the opening chapter at Midtown Comics today, and that itself convinced I had to own this. The opening is messed up. Seriously messed up.

  6. Finally. Something my mom will read. (I’m not kidding)

  7. Wow. This sounds awesome. I will definitely pick this up.

  8. There is an album by Power Electronics/Industrial group Deathpile that is essentially a concept record told from the perspective of the GR Killer, simply titled “G.R”. A great listen if you can stand harsh noise. Can’t wait to read this.

  9. I was flipping through this at the store the other day and sat it back down. Looks like I need to give it another look through. I am always intrigued by serial killers, so I will most likely get it.

  10. Picked this up today on Instocktrades.com with some other stuff. They have it there for a great price! I’m really, really looking forward to this.

  11. I have to admit to being fascinated by serial killers, both real and fictional. I’ve seen several TV programs on the Green River killer (both before and after his capture) and I’m going to have to get my hands on this one.

    I really appreciate it when reviewers on IFanboy go into something besides the usual capes & muscles stuff. Not that I don’t enjoy my share of that as well.

  12. For anybody interested, they posted this on thwipster for $14.99

  13. This book is currently available on Thwipster.com at 40% off. Get Some!

    http://www.thwipster.com/products/green-river-killer-a-true-detective-story

  14. I just started this book this morning, and it’s pretty fantastic. Looking forward to finishing this over the weekend.

  15. It’s now available on the iPad in the Dark Horse app for the rock bottom price of $8.99.