The Secret History of D.B. Cooper
The Secret History of D.B. Cooper by Brian Churilla. 2013. Oni Press, Inc., 114 p. $29.99. ISBN: 9781934964910
After jumping from a Boeing 727 on November 24, 1971 with $200,000 and a parachute somewhere between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington, D.B. (Dan) Cooper entered American history as one of its most mysterious figures. Even with an exhausting manhunt and continuing FBI investigation, the fate of the hijacker, and his ransom, remain unknown to this day.
Author Brian Churilla plays on this mystery in his new graphic novel, ostensibly telling is the “secret history” of D.B. Cooper. In this interpretation, Cooper is actually a CIA secret agent and assassin working in one of the famed MK-ULTRA projects known as Project Oculus during the height of the Cold War. Using psychotropic drugs, Cooper was able to enter into another plane of existence where he was able to fight demons with the aid of a one-eared teddy bear sidekick and his own samurai sword. In reality each demon he was able to slay in the alternate reality was a Soviet target who would then meet his end in a very similar, and ofttimes gruesome fashion in this world. Using these methods, Cooper has been able to assassinate over 60 high ranking Soviet officials.
Problems begin to arise for Cooper when it is revealed that he has entered and worked in this demonic alternate reality so often that he is no longer able to separate this world from that in his mind. Add to this formula Cooper’s own personal mission/vendetta, a Soviet agent on his tail in the demonic world, and an internal CIA investigation of double agents in this one, and you have the whole formula for The Secret History of D.B. Cooper.
All in all this was a very fast paced, visually appealing novel. As long as the reader is able to wholly suspend belief and embrace some of the conspiracy theories surrounding the MK-ULTRA project and CIA then it will be a very enjoyable one as well. Don’t go into this graphic novel looking for theories and the history of the actual D.B. Cooper, although the real life events do tie nicely into this fanciful interpretation. My only critique is that the story did seem a little rushed and forced at times; some revelations are a little cliche and others merely seemed there only to cut a page count.
I give The Secret History of D.B. Cooper 3 stars out of 5 because it is a fantastic premise and a well written and drawn story, but I really wanted it to be a little longer. More time on Cooper’s personal life, which is key to understanding his motivations with the CIA, as well as the Soviet counter project would have been very welcome and would have fleshed out the story quite a bit more for me.
I would only recommend The Secret History of D.B. Cooper to higher-level Young Adult readers and adults because of the gore and mild language.
The Secret History of D.B. Cooper on Goodreads
The Secret History of D.B. Cooper on LibraryThing
The Secret History of D.B. Cooper on Shelfari