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Claire: My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

My Friend Dahmer is a more sympathetic look at the infamous serial killer Jeffery Dahmer, who was known for mutilating and sometimes cannibalizing his victims. The novel follows him through his school years, as he tries to get a handle on his morbid tendencies, that include saving dead animals in jars of acid, to get to the bones and other innards. High school wasn’t an easy time for anybody, and coupled with a dissatisfying home life and understanding his homosexuality, Dahmer couldn’t have had it any worse. There was no one around to understand him or help with his horrifying problem.

It seems as though his urges came from a sense of morbid curiosity, rather than the desire to cause others pain. Like in part two, where he can’t kill a dog who he lured to his private spot. Killing animals is the first step in most sociopaths, but for a long time, his only interest was road kill. Dahmer would mutilate and destroy already dead animals, just to see what the insides looked like. He wasn’t like that all the time, he was able to act normal and try to make friends, but in the end, he knew that they weren’t the same.

The artwork in this novel is just as morbid as the story it is telling, it makes the reader feel uncomfortable as soon as they start reading it. With all of its graphic imagery and goery details just sets the right tone right away. Panels where Dahmer is alone and left to his thoughts, are the panels that can send shivers down the readers spine. It is impossible to tell what will set him off, or when he could snap and go off the deep end. He could attack his classmates, the animals, or even his own brother at any moment. There is no telling what he may do.

The best part of the graphic novel is the silence. There are so many silent panels and each one is absolute gold. It lets the imagery really sink in and get in the readers head. All we have to go by is the pictures on the page and the facial expressions, to go by. Small sound effects and little details, no words or narration, it sets the mood of suspense and leaves the reader to wonder what Dahmer is really thinking. The narration in the other parts of the story are the words and thoughts of someone else, we never know what Dahmer is really thinking. The reader never knows Dahmer’s true motivation behind everything he did.

In the end of the story, we learn so much, and see so much of what happened with Jeffery Dahmer, but we still get no answers. This is a man who went down in history for being one of the most despicable human beings on earth, and at the end of this insane story, we still know nothing about him. We are given such a unique new look at Dahmer and it still wasn’t enough to find out what drove him to do what he did.