Don’t come to this book for a definitive biography of a serial killer.
Rather, turn to it for a brilliantly designed graphic novel from a schoolfriend of Jeffrey Dahmer - the serial killer who tortured and killed 17 men and boys - who concentrates on the man’s formative years and leaves enough open to conjecture, without ever making his subject praiseworthy or excused.
My Friend Dahmer is Backderf's attempt to make sense of the iconic monster who he shared the same school hallways, classes and sometimes car journeys. It’s quite an eye-opening look at a singular childhood, with distant parents, a lot of alcohol – and the collection of roadkill that intrigued Dahmer so much. But this takes the character so far away from tabloid hyperbole, and brings us a much more human and humane subject. Our author, who knows his detail inside and out, even without his personal experiences, is but a small character in the drama that unfolds.
Backderf's style is excellent. Crisp, open, black and white punches on the page in dramatic framing, and sterling shading add to his character designs, which might be a little too cartoonish for some, but go a long way towards making this an excellent work. Married to the very intelligently portrayed storyline, and the unique factor of him knowing Dahmer at school as he did, and we have an unsurpassable look at a damaged anti-hero.