Saturday, 24 February 2018

The True Death of Billy the Kid by Rick Geary Review

Copkiller. American Robin Hood. World-famous outlaw. Western legend. This is the story of William H. Bonney aka Billy the Kid, infamous for the murders of several lawmen and shot dead by federal agents in 1881 aged just 21 years old. 

I adore Rick Geary’s true crime comics and I heartily recommend his Treasury of Victorian/20th Century Murder series to anyone who enjoys the genre. That said, The True Death of the Billy the Kid is one of the rare entries that I didn’t totally love – it’s still decent but not as high quality as the majority of his books. 

Geary is as informative as ever, providing the scant facts of Billy’s short life before he became the Kid, then jumping ahead to the final weeks of his life, beginning with a daring one-man prison break from a New Mexico jail and closing with the fateful showdown in Fort Sumner. 

It sounds like an exciting read – and the jailbreak sequence isn’t bad – but on the whole it turns out to be quite an uninteresting story. Billy’s early life is unimpressive, the scenes showing why he was liked by ordinary people are dull and the final showdown is disappointingly anticlimactic. Compared to Geary’s other subjects like H. H. Holmes the Beast of Chicago and Jack the Ripper, Billy’s crimes aren’t nearly as morbidly fascinating or unusual, nor is the investigation to capture him particularly gripping. 

Geary’s detailed black and white line art perfectly complements the writing, clearly illuminating the story and making the history instantly understandable. And I like that he sticks doggedly to the facts to be as educational as possible, though he also presents alternate theories and ideas to certain events for some added narrative intrigue. 

The True Death of Billy the Kid isn’t the most entertaining read but it’ll learn you all you ever wanted to know about this romanticised historical figure of the Old West.

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