By Peter Straub, Michael Easton, and John Bolton (Vertigo; 2010)
A landmark of sorts, being the first-ever foray into graphic novel scripting by the incomparable Peter Straub. He (together with co-writer Michael Easton) takes to the form like a natural, spinning a fractured, visually oriented yarn that works extremely well in graphic form. Of course, Straub and Easton’s efforts are helped immeasurably by the beautifully rendered illustrations of the great John Bolton.
THE GREEN WOMAN pivots on Fielding Bandolier, the fearsome serial killer of Straub’s “Blue Rose” trilogy of novels (KOKO, MYSTERY, THE THROAT). Tormented by horrific memories and the ceaseless voices of his many victims, the aging Fielding is looking to hang up his serial killing hat. Meanwhile, a New York cop named Bob Steele, tormented due to the fact that he was named after a famous Hollywood actor, is likewise suffering from horrific visions. He’s investigating the gruesome murders of several women, and in the process uncovers possible evidence that a former detective named Frank Belknap may not have been the dedicated law enforcer everyone seems to think he was/is.
Belknap is actually one of Fielding’s many guises. Another was Private Bachelor, who served in Vietnam, and took to the insanity of the war with a bit too much enthusiasm. Flashbacks fill us in on these and other deranged exploits carried out by Fielding, who hangs out in a deserted pub called The Green Woman Tavern that was once “Bad Guy Central.” Bob Steele likewise finds himself drawn to this place, where the inevitable confrontation awaits between cop, killer and the evil force residing in the area.
The above is admittedly not the most original of scenarios, but it’s the telling of this twisted tale that makes it so terrifically unnerving. The whole thing has a hallucinatory clarity, with impossible-to-forget images of eyeballs staring up from drains, severed heads turning up on plates and corpses draped on a fishing line. This isn’t a pleasant read, but for readers unafraid of an unflinching exploration of the depths of madness and evil it is a necessary one.