The latest release from NBM Publishing, Why I Killed Peter, by writer Oliver Ka and artist Alfred, is a striking and uncomfortable look at a young French boy's molestation by a priest who was a friend of his family. The book is as brilliant as it is uncomfortable, as Alfred and Ka merge together to form some pages of unforgettably effective storytelling.
First off, how neat is that cover, with the dueling profiles?
The set-up for the comic is that Ka has each chapter open up at a different year in his young life, with the tagline "I Killed Peter Because I'm 7 Years Old," "I Killed Peter Because I'm 8 Years Old," etc.
Ka grew up the son of two hippies in France during the 1970s, although he spent a lot of time with his very religious grandparents. Even as a child, Ka had a certain maturity (perhaps forced upon him by the lifestyle) and he would question the way his parents denounced religion while allowing him to be partially raised by grandparents that his parents KNEW would be forcing religion upon him. So if they had such a problem with religion, why let Oliver be raised with religion?
That's part of the interesting beginning of the book, but soon Peter is introduced, a local priest who befriends Oliver's parents.
Oliver and Peter strike up a friendship.
The two are friends for a number of years and Oliver attends the summer camp that Peter runs for kids.
It is when Oliver is 12 years old that the molestation takes place, and wow, these are amazing pages by Ka and artist Alfred. Throughout the book, Alfred has a nice expressive style, but in the actual scenes leading up to the molestation, he really shines.
The way Peter convinces Oliver to help him out is well-written, and I especially love how Oliver knows what is going on is wrong, but he doesn't want to be seen as some sort of baby not willing to go along with helping his friend Peter.
The actual molestation scenes are uncomfortable as all hell, but in a good way, of course - in an artistic "Wow, they are totally getting me to feel the fear of the character as this takes place" sense.
Later on, there is an excellent passage where Oliver confronts Peter and his younger self in his mind - Alfred gives this passage a good, surrealistic style.
Oliver writes in the story about how he and Alfred began working together on this project (there is a cool bit where they intermix the photos Alfred took for reference with the actual drawn panels), and this leads to a powerful ending that is as uncomfortable and as powerful as the molestation scenes.
This is an excellent work.
(Thanks to Paul Gravett's review for the scans from the work)