3 out of 4 stars
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CJ Standal, writer, and Juan Romera, artist, team up to produce Rebirth of the Gangster, a noir series in six acts. This review covers Act 1: Meet the Family, which introduces the six main characters: Marcus, Andrea, Hunter, Linda, Lorena, and Dennis. Who among them is the gangster?
Marcus Thompson is a lawyer. His father, Curtis, is black, and his mother, Andrea, is Asian. The Thompsons are well-to-do, and Curtis is a known philanthropist. However, Marcus feels pressured to uphold the Thompson name. Hunter was yet a child when his father, John, died. Hunter believes John was betrayed by his business partners; he is out to avenge his dad. Linda is Hunter’s cancer-stricken mother. When Lorena Sanchez, a Latina, was young, she saw her father nabbed by agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. She initially rebelled but later decided to conquer her pain. She is now a dedicated cop. Dennis used to hang out with Hunter before he was incarcerated. Now out on parole and a new Muslim, Dennis vows to live a crime-free life. All these people share a secret past; their present lives will intersect in this intricate story.
The story happens in contemporary America. The characters are multi-racial, come from different walks of life, and are of diverse genders. We see the usual issues that besiege people of color, those in the LGBTQ community, and ex-cons. The dialogues, including texting, are realistic, making it easy for the reader to get immersed in the goings-on. The character building is excellent, at least for the six main characters. The secondary cast needs more work, but I think this is intentional to keep the mystery for the next installments. I would have appreciated a name for the lady lawyer, though.
The story is written in the comic-book format. The characters are unique enough for quick identification most of the time. The black-and-white illustrations give the story a classy look, but the reader may have some trouble recognizing the flashbacks. The different sedans, save for the police cars, are also difficult to distinguish. There are likewise some inconsistencies in the illustrations: Curtis’ suit is different on page 8. Is Andrea left-handed (page 83) or right-handed (page 119)? Marcus is not wearing safety glasses while shooting targets in one frame on page 121. Linda’s bracelets are inconsistently drawn on several pages starting on page 106. These may be petty imperfections, but they can bother comic-book fans like me.
Other than comic-book enthusiasts, people who are into family stories will find this book appealing. Those who like following mysteries and solving cold cases will be hooked. Readers interested in human drama will find several points for introspection. Many of the characters in the book are angry and confused, so one who is after a relaxing read may opt out or choose to read the book in small doses.
This piece is meant to be read before the other acts in the series. Also, the story is unfinished. However, I feel invested enough in the story and the characters, and I am itching to know what happens next. The last page is a clever place to end this first act.
The grammar in the book is less than impeccable, but the errors do not detract from the suspenseful story. Coupled with the drawing slipups, though, they take away one star from my rating. I award 3 out of 4 stars to this first installment in the series. Now I am off to hunt for Act 2: What’s Old is New.
Rebirth of the Gangster Act 1
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