Guest Post: Torso: A Forgotten Noir Masterpiece

Picture this, the year is 1935 and the city of Cleveland, Ohio has just begun to recover from the blow dealt to its economy by the Great Depression. Citizens rejoice, incredibly happy to have finally pushed past the period of uncertainty and fear that nearly cost many of them their lives, and for others did just that.

This period of joy would not last long however, as between the years of 1935 and 1938, a fear would strike the heart of Cleveland, a fear like no other. A fear that resulted in mass hysteria and paranoia, a fear that would leave a stain on the city of Cleveland for the rest of time. The fear of the Torso Killer.

A compelling graphic novel 

The Torso Killer was a murderer active in Cleveland during the1930s who, as his name implied, left behind only the torsos of his victims. His reign of terror lasted for three long years, which are condensed into a brilliant work of noir by Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko in their graphic novel Torso.

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A graphic novel which follows safety director Elliot Ness as he attempts to track down the Torso killer alongside detectives Walter Myrtle and Sam Simon. The comic plays into its time period and style excellently, using harsh blacks and whites to transport us back into the era of film noir.

Casting away the use of colour and even the use of gray in order to truly take us to 1930s Cleveland, when Al Capone himself had only just been put away for tax evasion by Elliot Ness. An event that would push Ness into fame while also opening him up for ridicule due to the fashion in which he put the famed gangster away.

This, combined with media focus on the Torso Killer, set the scene for the weight to be placed on Ness’ back, and the scene for a forgotten noir masterpiece. Torso provide us with an in-depth and behind the scenes look into not only the case itself, but also the ways in which it impacted those involved.

Awesome attention to detail 

Torso maintains an incredible attention to detail, from the ways in which the bodies were found to the smallest detail of the condition they were found in. This is one of the primary calling points of Torso. Not only does it serve as a compelling story in a fictional sense, it also serves as a legitimately interesting history lesson.

In a story as stressful as this one, it is to be assumed that the characters would go through a large range of emotions throughout its run time.

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And this concept is portrayed not only through the dialogue but also through the panelling, which shifts and morphs in tune with the emotions of the characters. Whether it be showing who is I npower during a conversation or literally having a scene spiral out of control to portray the situation doing just that.

The panelling of Torso is truly comic book storytelling at its finest. The characters themselves are also engaging in their own right. It becomes truly tense to watch how they become closer and closer to danger as the course of the story moves forward. As well as how they must keep their reputations intact while also doing what they believe is right. All of this through primarily dialogue and panelling.

Torso is a fine comic with a great visual style, compelling and educational story, and immaculate panelling. Any fans of the noir genre or of comics in general owe it to themselves to check out this forgotten noir masterpiece.

Bradathon Nu is a published author and aspiring comic writer currently working on his first comic series.

Author: thecomicvault

Short story writer, comic geek and cosplayer hailing from Manchester, England. Find my pop culture ramblings on The Comic Vault.

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