How's this for an endorsement: "Terrific. It's got the scariest opening sequence I've read in years"¦Great, creepy stuff"? Blurbed by none other than Stephen King, Green River Killer: A True Detective Story had me from the get-go. When I spoke with Dark Horse Comics Senior Managing Editor Scott Allie about the project, he made sure to note that the book's tone was not exploitative or sensational. Here, the frank truth is dark enough.
Detective Tom Jensen devoted twenty years of his life to bringing closure to the families of the Green River Killer's many victims, leading up to an intense, emotional, and--as portrayed here--powerful 180 days of interrogation with Gary Leon Ridgway, the man who would be convicted as the Green River Killer. Jensen's son, Jeff, a journalist for Entertainment Weekly, portrays his father as a man driven by justice and responsibility in a case with an unfathomable body count. In Washington in the 1980s and 1990s, Ridgway is believed to have murdered over 70 women, and Jensen chronicles his father's stalwart mission to find these women using the best radar he could find: the killer himself.
At the point of his capture, Ridgway is willing to cooperate with Jensen as part of a plea bargain--to a point. His crimes were so numerous that he claims to be unable to remember exact details and locations of the bodies, making the pinning of these crimes all the more difficult. The truth begins to blur, and Jeff Jensen does a masterful job of flashing forward and backward through time, creating a twisted narrative of his own to match the mercurial confessions of Ridgway. Throughout the story, the validity of convicting Ridgway comes under question by just about everyone--all save Detective Jensen. Readers, too, may lose confidence in Ridgway's confessions, after numerous false starts to supposed crime scenes turn up empty. The detective never sways, however, and readers are pulled though his impressive and comprehensive investigation until the gruesome dots begin to connect.
Artist Jonathan Case portrays Jensen, Ridgway, and others through the years, aging them but never losing the core of their identities. As the story flashes backward, it's clear who everyone is by details as nuanced as eyes and mustaches--the former coming into play in a great one-panel refrain in pages 14 and 95, where Case illustrates a pair of eyes still recognizable after decades of deceit and murder. Case makes the most out of deep, inky blacks across the stark white pages--drawing attention to shadows, creases in clothes and faces, and what lies in wait for those who lose their way in Ridgway's woods.
In Green River Killer, Jeff Jensen did not write a voyeuristic account of monstrous crimes--rather, this is the story of the man who solved them: a true detective.