The Saga of the Bloody Benders: A Treasury of Victorian Murder
Nantier Beall Minoustchine, 2007 (2007)
Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton
orth American readers love a good serial killer story. As horrified as we are by the deaths, it still does not stop us from devouring the details of some newly discovered mass murderer. So it is surprising that few know of the Benders, a family of killers who settled for a brief stint in Kansas in 1870. In his ongoing and intriguing grahic novel series,
A Treasury of Victorian Murder
, Rick Geary traces the known events surrounding the Benders in the late nineteenth century.
eary does not just leap into the story and tell readers all about the Benders. Instead, like any good painter, he lays out the background. He starts with a map of Kansas and its counties according to maps from the time and follows that up with a map of Labette County, the place where the Benders settled. Geary then provides a brief history of Kansas and the influential events that led people to settle the area, including the killers.
' Bender and John '
' Bender are the first of the family to arrive, to scope out the scene and begin work on a home. Once Ma Bender and Junior's sister Kate show up, they get to work turning their home into a grocery store and eventually an inn. It is at this point that bodies start disappearing and one even shows up dead. People grow fearful and the Benders - already estranged from their community - seem to know that their time is near. However before the locals can figure things out, they have already made their escape. Once the house is examined, corpses are discovered.
hough addressing a particularly morbid topic, Geary does not exploit the grotesque nature of his story. The actual violence is always implied in his art but never blatantly revealed. This, and running exposition boxes throughout, give the graphic novel the feel of a crime show on television. The black and white lined art adds to this almost neutral attitude toward the tale. The simple presentation of people, actions, and scenes throughout the book speaks to the matter-of-fact tone Geary has carried throughout this series. Just as in his previous editions, Geary's facts are revealed in his bibliography, which he presents at the beginning of the book, encouraging readers to believe in the truthfulness of his account.
eaders interested in a bit of morbid history would do well to open up this graphic novel. Geary's talent to lay out the information for his audience reveals itself and readers will find his account rather enjoyable, despite the dark nature of his subject.
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