Thursday, July 19, 2012

Torso - Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko

TORSO collects a true-crime comic book mini-series written by Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko, with art by Bendis. It's the story of Eliot Ness's search for the Torso Killer, a serial murderer who started carrying out a number of gruesome killings about the same time that Ness was hired as Cleveland's public safety director. This was after the days of Al Capone's conviction and the days of The Untouchables in Chicago, when Ness was a national figure.

I'm far from an expert on true crime, so as Bendis and Andreyko follow the police investigation into the killings, I don't know which parts, if any, are fiction (although the inclusion of several photographs and documents in the back of the book indicate that they stick pretty close to the facts of the case). It's all pretty interesting and makes me want to learn more about what really happened.

Now, as for the script and art . . . comics curmudgeon that I am, I tend to value clarity and storytelling ability pretty highly, and there are a number of pages in this book where I had quite a bit of trouble following what was going on. That goes for words and pictures both. A lot of the dialogue is good, though, and I liked the way Bendis mixed actual photographs with the art in places, so the verdict from me is mostly positive.

Overall I enjoyed TORSO, and if you're a true-crime fan or interested in Eliot Ness, you might want to check it out. Max Allan Collins wrote a novel based on this case as well, and after reading TORSO, I want to read it, too.


Max Allan Collins said...

My novel BUTCHER'S DOZEN was published in 1988 and was the first book-length treatment of the Kingsbury Run case. It reflected a lot of digging at the Case Western Reserve Library, where my researcher George Hagenauer and I were the first people to look at Ness's personal scrapbooks and papers since Oscar Fraley (Ness's co-writer on THE UNTOUCHABLES and FOUR AGAINST THE MOB). With no modesty whatsoever, I will say that George and I did groundbreaking research that has been plundered by both non-fiction writers and novelists ever since, rarely with any acknowledgement. Bendis is a guy who used to write fan letters to my comic book Ms. Tree, so one can assume he was familiar with my novel. I realize that when you do a historical work, even when it reflects new research, you have no legal recourse against such people, but I don't have to like it.

James Reasoner said...

I appreciate the comment, Max. I definitely plan to read BUTCHER'S RUN. Doing just some cursory research (hi, Wikipedia!), I see that Bendis and Andreyko fictionalized quite a bit. I tend to trust what you and George come up with.

Anonymous said...

Collins' BUTCHERS DOZEN is one of his very best novels. Highly recommended!

--Stephen Mertz

Charles R. Rutledge said...

I'll second the rec of Butcher's Dozen. A great novel.