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My Friend Dahmer

My friend DahmerBy Derf

When I picked up "My Friend Dahmer" I was expecting somewhat of a creepy, bro-y graphic novel about a serial killer's origins. Aspects of this comic were creepy, but I couldn't have been farther from the truth in my casual apprehension. This is one of the better longer, graphic novel length comics I have read in a while. Blurbs in the beginning from R Crumb, David Small, and Alison Bechdel will give you an idea of the tone you can expect, as well as the foreward that lets you know this work was about 10 years in the making before it was published in its current form.

The author, who grew up in the same town as Jeffrey Dahmer, went to the same high school, hung out in the same circle of friends (kind of, you'll have to see in the book), greatly humanizes Dahmer without excusing his actions later in life. The book cheifly focuses problems with Dahmer's development on the lack of adult intervention. Combative but otherwise emotionally absent parents, an "anything goes" culture at school, and a lack of other guidance did not create Dahmer's situation, but it did nothing to catch it before it got worse.

While I hesitate to use the word to describe a book about such a subject, the comic is actually rather funny, and super heartfelt. You feel genuinely sad for Dahmer, for his experience in the world in which he lived, for his isolation. Backderf does an amazing job of taking us into the world of exurban late-seventies Ohio, and into the teenage minds of the narrator, his friends, and Dahmer. The drawing style immediately sets one ill at ease, in a purposeful way. Small describes the physical depiction of the characters as "organic robots," and I completely agree. They are boring and mindless-looking, yet creepy at the same time.

While the majority of the story follows Backderf, his friends and Dahmer, as well as their intersections, in comic form, another great strength of this comic, not from an emotional level but on a biographical level, is the inclusion of many many notes and sources in the end, cited by page number. This makes further research on Dahmer easy if one is so inclined, but also make for good elaboration in themselves. Anyone looking for a heavy graphic novel, with themes of teenage malaise and angst, true crime, seventies era narrative, or just an interesting graphic novel that continues to push the boundaries of what comics can be, should check this out!

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