cover image The Fatal Bullet: The Assassination of President Garfield

The Fatal Bullet: The Assassination of President Garfield

Rick Geary. Nantier Beall Minoustchine Publishing, $9.95 (80pp) ISBN 978-1-56163-228-2

In this first-rate nonfiction comics work, Geary examines the assassination of our 20th president, James Garfield, murdered barely six months into his presidency by Charles Guiteau, a failed lawyer and demented evangelist. Although the two men never knew one another, Geary focuses on the peculiar similarities in their backgrounds. Both hailed from the Midwest (Garfield from Ohio and Guiteau from Illinois) and were devoutly religious, studied law and gravitated toward politics. But the two couldn't have been more different. Garfield was honest, a brilliant student, a decorated Civil War hero destined for distinction. Guiteau was a misfit even as a child and ended up a deadbeat and a religious fanatic, convinced that he was chosen by God for greatness. Geary's well-researched account also documents how easy it was to gain access to, and the vulnerability of, American presidents in the 19th century. Guiteau secretly stalked the newly elected Garfield (who was given to strolling unguarded around D.C. at any hour) and shot him from behind as he was about to board a train. Geary also takes note of the woeful state of medical treatment at the time. Shot in early July, Garfield finally died in September after suffering through inept and painful attempts by his doctors to remove the bullet. Guiteau was tried and hanged for the murder shortly afterward. Geary's black and white drawings are superb as always in this work, a fitting follow-up to his equally fine The Borden Tragedy. (Aug.)