The Borden Tragedy

Created by: Rick Geary

ISBN: 1561631892 (Amazon)

Pages: 80

The Borden Tragedy

First, a badly-penned haiku review:

Clinical and dry,
Soulless, heartless recountment.
Just as it should be.

A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Borden Tragedy by Rick Geary

When an author hopes to present violent, violent history in a way that obscures entirely his own bias, he will most likely aim for a voice of narrative detachment. Thus cut off from the presence of the author’s overt guidance, readers are better able to take in the illusion that they are not being guided. That their experience of the history unfurling before them approaches objectivity.

With The Borden Tragedy (the first volume of the Treasury of Victorian Murder that I’ve been able to get my hands on), Rick Geary succeeds ably in preparing the illusion. His art (actually very reminiscent of Rick Griffin’s work) is not sensationalist and his camera angles are subdued. Even moments of great horror—such as a hatchet cleaving the back of a woman’s head—are presented so modestly that the reader hardly imagines the images being taken in are great terrors. Geary does a fantastic job of using his art to distance readers from the viscera of the actual events.

A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Borden Tragedy by Rick Geary

He further draws readers into the sense that they are impartial observers to the gratuitous murders of Abby and Andrew Borden by telling the story almost exclusively through the journaling of a female acquaintance of the accused Lizzie. This isn’t Geary’s report of things nor the sensationalist speculation of a newspaper that only wishes to boost subscriptions. Instead, we are given a narrator with curiosity in the case of a woman whose prior demeanor hardly matched that of a reckless killer. This prompts a detached examination of events, compiled years later and apart from any of the natural hysteria that would likely govern in the season following Lizzie Borden’s arrest and trial. Readers can certainly understand that our narrator may have some emotional involvement that may colour her reportage, but as we’re aware of that, we can look for clues that might belie her telling.

A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Borden Tragedy by Rick Geary

The trick of course is that even taking into account that the narrator is a party outside Geary’s control, the entire book, from art to writing is his own production. And it’s a trick he pulls off wonderfully. Geary chooses the scenes to portray and how to do so. He chooses the words to report. He chooses the expressions to give his characters, where to place them in the rooms, how to depict their eyes. All of these things are fabrications he uses to tell the story he wishes to tell, and yet: for the space of those eighty pages, I never once was drawn out of his narrative to ask, What does Geary think? Where is he leading me? And then even so—and this may be due his own lack of personal conviction regarding the identity of the murderer—after finishing the book and setting it down, I still felt that I was unable to come to any conclusions as to either the killer’s true identity or where Geary himself comes down.

And then again, perhaps this agnosticism was Geary’s goal for me.

The Borden Tragedy is a short work and while not as thrilling as many examples of true crime literature, it serves as a fantastic primer to a famous unsolved double murder. Geary’s talent as a comics creator is evident and I’m now looking forward to collecting all of his Treasury Volumes.

A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Borden Tragedy by Rick Geary


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