Geary, Rick. The Saga of the Bloody Benders.

NY: NBM Comics, 2007.

Geary’s graphic documentary “Treasury of Victorian Murder” series is a guilty pleasure, the sort of thing you almost don’t want to admit you enjoy reading. They sometimes range into folklore and myth, but this volume is solidly historical, set in Labette County, Kansas, in the southeastern corner of the state, in 1870-73.

It all begins with the arrival of “Pa” Bender, apparently a German immigrant, with the younger John Bender, apparently his son, who build a frame structure just off the regional business road that was once the Osage Trail. They put up a sign identifying the building as an inn and grocery, and then their womenfolk arrive — “Ma” Bender and the mysteriously attractive Kate. The Bender Inn becomes a regular stop for travelers and they seem to fit right into the neighborhood, with Kate receiving due attention from the local young men, . . . until inquiries begin to come in about individuals known to have traveled on horseback or by wagon through the area who never arrived at their destination, and who nearly always were carrying substantial amounts of cash. Suspicions are aroused among the locals, who come poking around and investigating, and suddenly the Benders are gone, packed up and disappeared themselves. So the shovels come out. And then the bodies begin to appear.

What happened to the Benders — assuming that was even their name? Assuming they were even related? Nobody ever found out anything, really, though there were various claims and gossip. And Geary tells the story in his inimitable, rather creepy black-and-white art. He reminds me in some indefinable way of Edward Gorey, though their styles are nothing alike. Maybe it’s the facial expressions. Or maybe it’s just the general weirdness of the material. But the books in this series are nearly all worth reading.

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Published in: on 3 May 2013 at 1:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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