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‘Torso’ TPB (review)

Written by Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko
Art by Brian Michael Bendis
Published by Dark Horse


My second oldest son is what I would like to call a contrarian.

I believe his one purpose in life is to dislike whatever is happening in the zeitgeist. If you were to ask him about any show or creator presently popular, he would be utterly dismissive. Stranger Things is overrated. Yellowstone, what is the point? Ozark? Breaking Bad did it better. I often find his opinions strange and saddening because I genuinely believe his sense of pride is blocking him from enjoying some beautiful pieces of art and entertainment.

I started this review with a brief biography on my son because it is my turn to be the contrarian.

Brian Michael Bendis is one of the most regarded creators of comic books today.

He is famous for his runs on books like Ultimate Spider-Man, New Avengers, Daredevil, and Jessica Jones: Alias. Bendis is a great writer. I do not detract from his talent in any way. Torso is the book that put Bendis and Andreyko on the map. In 1999 it won an Eisner Award and was nominated for three Eagle Awards. Torso is the book that put both Bendis and Andreyko on the map.

Torso is based upon Elliot Ness during the twilight of his career as he served as Safety Director during a series of gruesome unsolved murderers from 1935 to 1938.

Fresh from his legendary Chicago triumph over Al Capone and associates, Eliot Ness set his sights on Cleveland and went on a crusade that matched, and sometimes even surpassed, his past accomplishments. Dismembered body parts have started washing up in a concentrated area of Lake Erie Sound. Their headless torsos have left no clues to their identity or the reason for death. Elliot Ness and his colorful gang of “The Unknowns” chased this killer through the underbelly of Cleveland for years. As far as the public was concerned, he was never captured.

But what happened is even more shocking.

I did not enjoy this book.

I understand it was well written and structured. But it was also dense, wordy, and dreary to read. Perhaps the fact that I read Torso while sitting in my sunny villa in the British Virgin Islands did not help set me up to enjoy the book. In addition, I was probably not too fond of this book because I am familiar with everything that Bendis offers after 23 years of being a well-known industry darling. The structure of the MCU today owes much credit to Bendis for its sardonic wit, zingy one-liners, and deep introspection wrapped up in a neat package. Bendis is also known for not being able to deliver a satisfying ending. I found Torso guilty of both sins.

What was fresh and new in 1999 is predictable in 2022.

To their credit, Bendis and Andreyko offer closure on the Torso case (officially, the issue remains unsolved); however, I feel the book did not end triumphantly. However, that is also accurate because Ness’ time in Cleveland was the beginning of his fall from public grace.

I’m sure many of you would love this book, and for those who like true crime, gritty fiction true noir, this book is for you.

Regarding my tastes, I have moved on from this kind of overwrought artsy material and pulled up a seat next to my son, critiquing the world through a contrarian’s eyes.

Final Score: 3 out of 5 stars


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