Robert DeNiro and his connection to gangster movies are as synonymous as the name Xerox and photocopy. One of his earliest movie was Mean Streets which chronicled how a small-time hood worked his way up the ranks. Of course, he would go on to make even more gangster movies with Martin Scorsese. One of his best being Goodfellas, which some consider the prototypical gangster movie.
DeNiro even played a young Vito Corleone in what some consider Francis Ford Coppola’s best movie, The Godfather Part II. The one movie that most people forget he was in and is considered an excellent movie in its own right, Once Upon a Time in America, directed by the late great Sergio Leone. What some may not know, if they never saw the movie, is that he played a Jewish gangster by the name of Noodles. His talent as a chameleon is put to great use throughout the movie. In Joe Kubert’s excellent Jewish Gangster, we get a tale much like Leone’s classic, but with its own flavor.
We meet Ruby, a young man growing up in New York who sees a
gangster, Monk Greenberg, kill a man, just because he owed him. Somehow what he
saw fascinated him, this leads him seeking out Monk, and rapidly becoming
entrenched in this world, by running small errands at first. Increasingly, as
his life becomes more part of the underworld, his relationship with his family,
eventually disintegrates. Ruby would go on to rise through the ranks, becoming
his own man, and becoming as respected as Monk. Ruby would reunite with his
family shortly after his father’s death, leading him to some very bad decisions
and dalliances with death. By book’s end, a couple of betrayals leaves everyone
blind, Ruby finally gets what matters most in life, the love of family.
Overall, a harrowing and epic tale of coming of age in a world filled with gangsters where staying true to yourself can be the hardest thing to do. The story by Kubert is engrossing and smart. The art by Kubert and Pete Carlsson is vivid and awe inspiring. Altogether, one of Kubert’s best works that reads like one of America’s greatest novels.
Story: Joe Kubert Art: Joe Kubert and Pete Carlsson
Story: 10 Art: 9.6 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy