Violent Cases writer by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean (graphic novel).

‘Violent Cases’ is a graphic short story written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by Dave McKean. The first panel shows the narrator, a man in his thirties, lighting a cigarette. The illustrations that follow show the story he’s telling but occasionally cut back to him. On pages 5-6 it cuts to the present day and him asking his father to clarify something.


The events he is recounting took place in Portsmouth, England when the narrator was four years old. His father accidentally hurt the little boy’s arm and took him to see an osteopath, who turns out to have been Al Capone’s osteopath. He tells the four year-old about the good old days and the splendid parties Al used to have. On the return visit he tells the boy more about the American gangster. Later, there’s a children’s party at a seafront hotel and the narrator bumps into the old man again.

The theme is partly memory and how accurate it may be. That’s where the title comes from in a clever bit of misunderstanding. Dave McKean’s art is in the style of Bill Sienkiewicz, not my favourite, but to be fair many of the illustrations are beautifully done and the story is well told. I enjoyed the reading experience and was only let down by the ending which was either vague or incredible, depending on how you take it. That’s deliberate, I’m sure as Neil Gaiman knows what he’s doing with a story and quite common now. Definite conclusions are old hat. Unfortunately, I still like them and not having one kind of ruins the preceding for me.

The tale is interesting and well crafted but rather slight. I’m not sure it merits this deluxe format and hard covers but clearly the publishers think so. It has an interesting introduction by Paul Gravett about the burgeoning eighties British comic scene in which the story was created and an introduction from the 1987 edition by his eminence, Alan Moore, to whom it is dedicated ‘with thanks and gratitude and, after all these years, still with a smidgen of awe. There’s an introduction by Neil Gaiman from the 1991 reissue. There’s an afterword by Neil Gaiman from the 2003 reissue and there are short biographies of Neil Gaiman and artist Dave McKean. In general, it’s packaged as something awesome and wonderful.

I’ll have to read it again and have a rethink. I mean, if Alan Moore likes it…I have more than a smidgeon of awe for big Al. Much more.

Eamonn Murphy

October 2014

(pub: Titan Books/Dark Horse. 48 page graphic novel large hardback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78329-360-5)

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Eamonn Murphy

Eamonn Murphy reviews books for sfcrowsnest and writes short stories for small press magazines. His eBooks are available at all good retailers or see his website:

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