cover image Ghetto Brother: Warrior to Peacemaker

Ghetto Brother: Warrior to Peacemaker

Julian Voloj and Claudia Ahlering. NBM (, $12.99 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-56163-948-9

This graphic novel debut for Voloj and Aherling is essentially a fictionalized biography of Benjamin “Benjy” Melendez, founder of the Ghetto Brothers gang (one of many Bronx gangs in the 1960s). Melendez led his gang to a nonviolent resolution to the conflict arising from the death of another gang member named Black Benjie in 1971. Black Benjie was killed while acting as a mediator between rival gangs, and this volume describes the events leading up to his death. The authors follow Melendez’s life from his move to the Bronx as a child to the present day. The writing is matter-of-fact and informative, but the narrative is poorly structured—some scenes are repetitive while others skip too far ahead, obliterating any tension. Additionally, despite the clear passion of the creative team, the art and writing are not harmonious, with too many things crowded into panels, leaving no room for captions. Yet the importance of this fascinating piece of history comes through, despite the flawed execution. (May)