Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Just Read: The Saga of the Bloody Benders by Rick Geary

This is the latest in Geary's series of small hardcovers (roughly 5 1/2" x 8 1/4", and probably about 80 pages, though it's unpaginated) about famous, infamous, or little-known murders of the 19th century.

This time, it's a "family" (there's some doubt as to that) who set up a small general store and inn on a Kansas road soon after the Civil War and proceeded to kill a fair number of their customers for their money. Their origins and fate are equally obscure, but Geary works well with what is actually known, and tells the story in a detailed but quick-moving fashion. I'll avoid telling more of the story, since I assume people will want to read Geary's version -- this isn't a case I expect most readers will have heard of before. (I certainly hadn't.)

Geary's art style is oddly well-suited for this series -- he does very detailed drawings, which helps differentiate all of the characters (even though he's now spent a decade drawing hundreds of guys in frock coats, tall hats, and huge beards, they're still separate, distinctive people) and solidify the settings. He adds maps and schematics where necessary, and they flow perfectly with the rest of his art and work exceptionally well as comics panels. He doesn't completely avoid the inherent violence, but he keeps it off-stage, mostly, and the black-and-white art also adds some necessary distancing.

This is one of the better books in the series -- they're all exceptionally well-researched, written in a lively manner, and drawn with a keen eye -- but some are above even the high standard for the series. Anyone who has any interest in history in comics form should try one of Geary's books, and this would be a good place to start.

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