Ruby, the protagonist of veteran cartoonist Kubert’s graphic novel, is a handsome young man growing up in a poor Brooklyn Jewish family during the Depression.
He falls in with a local mobster called Monk, and his initial eagerness to make a few dollars to support his saintly, hardworking parents ends up getting him in way over his head in the organized crime world. He’s caught up in both a war between the Jewish and Italian mobs over unionizing factories and an affair with his dangerous mentor’s gorgeous moll.
If you think you know where this story is going, you’re probably right. Kubert indulges in every gangster cliché in the book and all the expected characters: the heartbroken papa, the angelic little sister, the overeager best pal who gets whacked. But his drawings lovingly evoke a long-gone moment in New York history, especially the gorgeous chapter headings, and his command of thin, sketchy pen lines that suggest facial expressions and motion is magisterial. A brutally kinetic fight scene near the end is a reminder that Kubert drew some of the finest war comics of the ’60s. As a story, Jew Gangster is mostly a B-movie– esque historical piece, but the economy and style of its draftsmanship puts its visual side near the rank of Will Eisner’s finest later work.
- Trade Paperback
- Cat. No.