Review: The Adventures of Blanche

The Adventures of Blanche cover
Cover of “The Adventures of Blanche”

Rick Geary is a wonderful cartoonist known for a lot of things — he’s contributed to National Lampoon and MAD (he’s in the current issue even!), he’s worked with Harvey Pekar on stories for American Splendor, but the thing he’s probably most famous for (at least in comic nerd circles) is his wonderful Treasuries of Victorian Murder and Treasures of XXth Century Murder.  These are true crime stories, meticulously researched and illustrated in Geary’s clear line-art style.  He’s done Lizzy Borden, Jack the Ripper, and the most recent is Lover’s Lane: The Hall-Mills Mystery.

The Adventures of Blanche, however, is not one of these books — but boy does it look like it, which can mess with your head a little bit.  The three stories compiled in the volume have a similar look and pacing to the Treasuries — they’re taken from letters that Geary allegedly found in the attic from his maternal grandmother to her family back home as she travelled the world as a phenomenal concert pianist.  Geary’s history and his devotion to historical detail thus sucks the reader into the stories as much as the Treasuries…. which can make you start to wonder whether or not the underground cabal in New York City devoted to keeping the world safe from a tentacled monster known only  as the “Presence” disturbed by the new subway being constructed is real.  It sounds pretty fantastic but… Geary wouldn’t make things up, would he?

As it turns out, he would.  Or at least one hopes so.

Blanche is just incredibly charming — his characters are fleshed out and feel real.  It’s not just his history doing true crime comics that makes the reader wonder the veracity of the Blanche stories even in the face of monsters or magnetically powered flying orbs — but his talent for writing the epistolary-styled narration helps the feel that this is OBVIOUSLY history – even if it’s secret history.

To be honest, I have no idea how much of Blanche is made out of whole cloth — I suspect 100% — but perhaps Blanche really was his grandmother, and maybe she did travel the world giving concerts.  And maybe she did save the world at least once.  It’s still hard to imagine the fellow who made the case of the Lindbergh Baby’s disappearance so clear and understandable, y’know, lying.

So, the short version is I highly recommend this book — but I also highly recommend reading a lot of the Treasuries first.  Not just because they’re wonderful books (Blanche stands alongside them perfectly in terms of quality), but just so you can have that particular mind-fuck of Rick Geary telling you with his clear, documentary style that everything you know about history is wrong.

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