Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Marc Andreyko
Release Date: 29th June 2022
Between the years of 1935 and 1938, Cleveland was haunted by a serial killer responsible for the murder and dismemberment of twelve victims. Despite the dogged endeavours of world famous G-Man Elliot Ness, no one was ever brought to trial for the crime and to this day the crimes remain unsolved.
The Torso Killings are a fascinating, and frustrating series of murders, marred by a police force steeped in corruption, poor investigation, and a killer who delighted in mocking the police, and particularly Ness, decades after the murders stopped. Only one suspect was ever detained, a man universally believed to be innocent and widely believed to be murdered in his cell by police covering a forced confession.
I’m a true crime nerd. I’m that person who comes out with “interesting” facts about serial killer at parties. I have a whole library of books on serial killers, the men and women who hunt them, forensic techniques, and profiling. This isn’t the first time I’ve said this, but true crime and comics pretty much hits me where I live.
The first thing I am going to say about this title is that this is one of those times where you need to buy the physical book. I’m not being pretentious or purist, it’s just frankly unintelligible in digital format due to the sheer number of double spreads and rotating pages/panels.
Now I’ve got that out of the way, I have to say that this is not my favourite adaptation of a true crime story. It’s is ponderous and sluggish, and I found myself practically skim reading at times hoping for the next ‘interesting’ bit.
I think that a lot of the issues I have with the pacing of this story stem from the sheer amount of time spent on the political wrangling and posturing that surrounded the corruption in Cleveland, as well as the press frenzy around the arrival of Elliot Ness. While I do think that, for a historical prose book, this is important to include, it really doesn’t suit the pacing of a graphic novel.
When the story swings back to the investigation, I really enjoyed it. The writing is good, it’s well thought out, it’s well delivered and it’s done with a passion for the subject. I just think that this really needed to be a true crime novel to let Brian Bendis properly cover the story, rather than try and condense everything into the graphic novel format.
I also have mixed feelings on the artwork. There are some panels/pages that are really great. There’s quite a lot of experimentation with styles in terms of what we get on the page, but there are equally some that feel unfinished, and it is at times distracting. There are also some odd design choices, like having a conversation run over soxd pages, with each page being six identical panels; which would make sense if it was driving the story forward but it really isn’t, it’s basically water cooler chat.
There are some incredibly good True Crime GN adaptations out there. “The Green River Killer”, “Did You See What Eddie Gein Done”, “My Friend Dahmer”, and “The Butcher of Paris” to name a few. Torso just falls short, for me at least, of siting in that same category.
That being said, I’d love to read a prose novel by Bendis on the subject. I think that could be something special.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek