Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Saga of the Bloody Benders

Based on shocking true events, The Saga of the Bloody Benders tells of a family that settled in Kansas as a result of the Homestead Act of 1862, calling themselves the Benders. The beautiful young daughter Kate was beguiling to many men, and she also worked as a healer and a medium, displaying a disturbing connection with the spirit world. The family opened a small grocery store and an inn on a main travel route, and many of the people who came through the area with money in their pockets to stake their own claims stayed a night there. Many of them were never seen again. Months later, when investigators finally zeroed in on the goings-on of the Bender family, they disappeared and were never found.

The horrible evidence of their deeds was all that was left, as no one could even determine the family's identity. The murder weapons and grisly corpses contributed to a gruesome, sensational tale that spread across the US. The story of the "Bloody Benders" fascinated many, and legends have arisen about their identities and their final fates. The mystery of the Bloody Benders still continues to intrigue people to this day. Currently, director Guillermo Del Toro is working on a motion picture version of the story.

Rick Geary is an acclaimed and accomplished comics creator whose attention to craft is evident. As with many of the volumes in Treasury of Victorian Murder series, this book is meticulously researched and detailed. I particularly liked his many maps and house diagrams in this book, as well as the many scenarios he presents about the possible circumstances and identities of this "family." Coupling this verisimilitude with expert pacing and storytelling, Geary did an excellent job of creating an ominous, foreboding tone while maintaining a journalistic style.

The Saga of the Bloody Benders has been an well regarded book, with a section excerpted in Best American Comics (2008) and it also being named a YALSA Great Graphic Novel. Accordingly, it has been reviewed well. Andrew Wheeler praised it for Geary's "lively art – particularly the very expressive faces of his characters – and his amazingly useful diagrams and maps makes his work unique and compelling." Publishers Weekly called the art "exquisite" and the writing "riveting." Andy Shaw was a bit more lukewarm about the book, enjoying the art but criticizing the writing's "dry but authoritative tone, which leaves it feeling like a decent dissemination of the known information on this mysterious, murdering family."

Here is a preview from the book's publisher NBM.

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