Friday, April 15, 2011

Green Hell


The Green Woman, written by Peter Straub and Michael Weston, illustrated by John Bolton (2010): I hesitate to use the word 'dandy' when praising such a violent and disturbing graphic novel, but there it is. Straub, Weston and Bolton continue the story of uber-serial-killer Fielding 'Fee' Bandolier (a.k.a. a host of other names, all with the initials 'F.B.'), who we've seen previously in Straub's novels Koko and The Throat.

Viet Nam vet killing-machine Bandolier, now in his 60's, apparently seeks retirement to whatever rewards a seemingly supernatural being inhabiting the closed-down bar The Green Woman just outside Straub staple Millhaven, Illinois. Or is it Wisconsin? An obsessed, debauched cop called Bob Steele, named after an old-timey cowboy actor, has been pursuing Bandolier for years, tracking him by recognizing similar signatures in a host of seemingly unconnected serial killings across America. Two other serial killers are also operating, both obsessed with Bandolier's body of work. Two seemingly haunted bars -- The Green Woman and The Black Galleon, the latter in Ireland -- are also linked by the ship's figurehead, taken from the Galleon and relocated to The Green Woman some time in the past.

The Black Galleon was built from the timbers of a ship upon which all the sailors went mad and killed one another (as one character muses, the lumber probably came cheap). The Galleon wants its figurehead back. And Bandolier believes that his decades of killing have all been in service to some seemingly malign, female supernatural entity that demands he murder and mutilate women. As you can see, this is a light-hearted romp. The writing is crisp and evocative, the violence horrifying but not exploitative, Bolton's mostly photorealistic art jarring and occasionally disorienting to terrific effect. Not for the squeamish, but highly recommended.

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