cover image Al Capone

Al Capone

Meralli Swann and PF Radice, trans. from the French by Andrew Benteau. Black Panel, $29.99 (172p) ISBN 978-1-990521-16-4

The fast and furious life of one of America’s most infamous criminals is rendered in this arresting semi-fictional graphic novel by French comics team Meralli (Algériennes) and Radice. Capone narrates his story from a cell at Alcatraz, where the diminished and syphilis-ravaged legend tries to convince his mother’s ghost he was not such a bad guy. Raised by poor Italian immigrants in Brooklyn, Capone grew up stealing food to eat. He turned to more advanced crime as a teenager, graduating from card cheating to enforcement work for the Irish mob. Following his mentor Johnny Torrio to Chicago, Capone gets his nickname (“Scarface”) from boss “Big Jim” Colosimo, who puts the hot-tempered 21-year-old to work running his bootleg liquor operation. As Capone’s ambition grows, so does his paranoia, appetite for violence, and need for euphemisms—anodyne clichés (“You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs”) are laid ironically over scenes of slaughter. Radice’s art is colorful and nicely detailed, though the juxtaposition between the cartoonish aesthetic and the often bloody subject can be jarring. Meralli plays loose with the historical record by drawing on Capone’s highly embellished autobiography to shine a light on his self-glorification, which becomes more detached from reality as the book nears his collapse. This stylish page-turner will pique the interest of classic true crime buffs. (Sept.)