Green River Killer: A True Detective Story
Written By Jeff Jensen, Artwork by Jonathan Case, Letters by Nate Piekos
Jeff Jensen's first graphic novel recounts the story of his father's investigation into the titular Green River Killer. Cited as the worst serial killer in US history, haunting Seattle and claiming the lives of almost 50 women, Jensen retells his father's downright tenacious "quest" to capture Gary Leon Ridgeway.
The narrative is fantastic and pace is fantastic. The prologue gives us an alarming and brutal insight into the mind of Gary, depicting his first foray into violence whilst the epilogue paints us a picture of the Detective Tom Jensen. These juxtaposing scenes bookend the story itself that jumps back and forth skilfully throughout the investigation that creates a complex, and engaging story. Spanning and visiting different parts of investigation treats us to sophisticated visual foreboding and intrigue that we can see that we can see have importance that isn't revealed until much later on in the story. The picture of the author as a youth dressed as a knight that is stapled to Det. Jensen's cubicle with the caption "Green River Mission Statement" is a particularly strong motif that has a resounding significance come the end of the story and the understanding that although the story is a crime thriller and it's really an exploration of Detective Tom Jensen and the kind of man he is. Little nuisances, his behaviour with colleagues, are all beautifully depicted. The work Jensen and Case do with panels and paces displays wonderful characterisation, in particular pages 187-192 allude to the detectives hidden frustration and steely commitment fantastically.
Case's art is outstanding through. Almost classically cartoonish, he manages to capture every decade the book moves trough and ages the characters brilliantly. His real forte is his mastery of expressions though. He expertly captures the frustration of the case, the joyous camaraderie between the detectives and the icy distance of the killer. Part way through you believe that these characters are real, and then you realise they are. Whether a cost based or stylised decision, black and white works for this book. The shocking murder scenes are so because of the nature of them and the psyche of the murderer. Coloured panels would of cheapened or at least detracted from the ideas behind the story.
The only thing I could possibly put against this book is that the jumping narrative may prove difficult for those inexperience with reading graphic novels. That is it. Green River Killers works as a crime novel but works even better as a son's explanation for the idolisation of his father. But by far and away I think the this book is a master class in exploring mindset of a good man wholeheartedly dedicated to his pursuit. There are a lot of creator owned biographical graphic novels out there cited as master pieces, a lot with better art, a lot with more revelation about the author but not as many work so well as a story in themselves. This is a great story with outstanding characterisation, if that's the kind of thing your into, and let's face it if you have any sense you should be, put down whatever superhero trade paperback you want to buy, walk over to the Dark Horse section and pick up Green River Killer. It's Good.