Yes, you read that right. This is indeed a graphic novel about Jeffery Dahmer. Yes, that guy; the one ultimately arrested for the gruesome murders of seventeen young men and boys in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Akron, Ohio areas. Sadly from the media frenzy of the early 90’s the title of this graphic novel is all most people need to read to know who the novel’s main character is. If it had been My Friend McInnes or My Friend Thompson, one might have said, “I wonder what that is about?” Instead, most see My Friend Dahmer and think, “Do I really want to read that?” My answer would be yes.
This isn’t a book about a rehash of his grisly crimes, replete with panels awash in bright reds. Instead it is a book about Jeff Dahmer’s life from junior high school through to the first few years after his graduation, primarily as seen through the eyes of one of his classmates – the author’s. In effective, stylized black and white, Derf Backderf recounts his teenage years going to school with Dahmer in Ohio. He fills in the holes of Dahmer’s life during that time with source material from Dahmer’s prison interviews, FBI files, and Dahmer’s father. The end product is almost a slice of life 1970’s high school reality complete with cliques, bullies, and outcasts, but with a chilling undertone as one watches Dahmer slowly transform and develop.
There are a few ‘ish’ scenes and the ultimate subject matter is certainly heavy, so there is a little bit of reader beware required, but I think it is a worthwhile read for anyone who was in high school in the 70’s and early 80’s, has even a passing interest in the Dahmer story, or for anyone looking at the peer-to-peer interaction of high schoolers and its impact that is still applicable today.