From Publishers Weekly
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. (Oct.)
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Veteran comics artist Kubert took a major leap out of genre comics with Yossel
(2003), the tragic story of a teenager trapped with his family in the Warsaw ghetto. The venture invigorated him, and now he offers another departure from his usual war and superhero work. Jew Gangster
is about young Ruby, who rejects his immigrant parents' aspirations to respectability and falls in with a brutal mob. The story shares the milieu of Will Eisner's graphic novels, Jewish New York in the first half of the twentieth century. Unlike Eisner, who seems to draw directly from real life, Kubert appears to be inspired by 1930s Warner Brothers crime films. Even so, Kubert is one of the few comics artists alive who lived through the Depression, and his way with Brooklyn street scenes and Ruby's family's tenement apartment conjures an aura of authenticity. His full-bodied drawing style has always made most other comics artists look pallid, and he works with even greater vigor here. Admirers of Eisner's graphic novels should like Kubert's recent works, too. Gordon FlaggCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved