I recently learned that NBM have recently released a second Treasury of Victorian Murder Compendium, having been unaware that there had been a first Treasury. I was, in hindsight, annoyed by my ignorance because I belong to the substantial throng of comics readers who can’t seem to get enough of Victorian murder in sequential narrative.
This 400 page graphic novel-like compendium is adapted and drawn by Rick Geary whose easy on the eyes highly-polished inking is quite a pleasure to read in this black and white volume. The stories in this compendium are also, to my surprise, largely American in subject-matter, something I’m particularly short on when it comes to Victorian murder narratives (well, the vast majority I’ve gotten my hands on seem to be London-based or Paris-based). They range from the story of Lizzie Borden (subject of many a badly-reconstructed television documentary episodes), to “The Mystery of Mary Rogers”, “The Saga of Bloody Benders”, “The Cast of Madeleine Smith” and “The Murder of Abraham Lincoln”.
Lizzie Borden’s story comes with an introduction, extensive bibliography, notes, and even a massively extensive selection of reproduced press-clippings and legal documents from the time. It’s a long-form narrative with so much extraneous material that it easily stands as its own graphic novel (and did, as published by NBM) but we get the bumper edition here. “The Mystery of Mary Rogers” also shows the same attention to detail by including the links by which the true story came to influence the works of Edgar Allan Poe.
This second compendium will certainly leave me reaching for the first in due course, but overall, it’s a densely crafted volume showing Geary’s dedication to detail and his own sense of investigation into true stories of the strange and macabre. This is exactly the kind of book to cozy up to as winter sets in, and Geary deserves plenty of thanks from us Victoriana-lovers for creating such an extensive library in our favorite medium.