My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The best part of this one is that the nostalgia it instilled in me. I remember when we started seeing this sort of ‘grown up’ comics back in the late 80s. I was in college and ready for something more complex and mature than some of the superhero fare (not that I don’t love that, always have, always will). Sandman, Hellblazer and that lot. Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman were some of my favorites. They do work well together.
That said, I never saw Violent Cases in its original (and apparently small) US release nor even in its rerelease. I’m looking at Dark Horses 2013 re-re-release. Sometimes I read things and think a story has an intentional (or unintentional) gender biases and this might be one of those things. Or it could just be that as an Italian, I’m so tired of seeing Italians only in the context of being mobsters.
To be fair, the story is about a specific mobster, Al Capone. It opens with a young man relating a story from his youth. In a fight with his father, our narrator suffers a separated shoulder and his dad takes him to see an osteopath who, before coming to the UK, was Al Capone’s doctor. Over the course of the graphic novel, the doctor cares for the young man, learning about how he feels about kids his age and relating tales of what it was like to work for Capone. The title is from a child’s misunderstanding of violin case. We're not even sure all these events actually happened as memory can be tricky but this is what he thinks happened.
The back materials of the book are full of accolades for this story of how moving it is and it has won a boat load of awards. Honestly, it wasn’t that impressive to me. In many ways, it’s just not my type of story. I’m not a contemporary literature reader and this was definitely that. I didn’t care much about the boy or the osteopath. It’s a slow story without a lot happening (Until the end). That said it was very well drawn. McKean’s art was more interesting to me than the actual story. It’s very realistic looking and monochromatic, plenty of sepia tones. The young boy, as an adult, seems like he’s almost behind bars with the way its drawn (but you don’t know one way or the other).
Dark Horse printed this on some thick paper, giving it a royal treatment. It’s a quick read and maybe even an important one. This was done just as comics were metamorphosing. It was good to see.
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