cover image Bootblack


Mikaël, trans. from the French by Matt Madden. NBM, $24.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-68112-296-0

Mikaël (Giant) returns with another immersive graphic novel set in old New York in which the plot is almost secondary to the intricate worldbuilding. During the Great Depression, Al Chrysler, orphaned by a tenement fire and determined to leave his immigrant origins behind, makes a living as a shoeshine boy and romances the haughty Maggie. “All I knew of the world was that city,” he recalls. Al’s gang of bootblacks, the East River Wolves, start running money for the Mafia and get mixed up in a plot to take down Mayor LaGuardia. Flash forward to the battlefields of WWII, where a slightly older and much wiser Al reckons with the darkest night of his back-alley past. Mikaël’s art, drenched in faintly sepia-toned colors, feels strongly influenced by Will Eisner’s classics, but he brings his own formidable draftsmanship. The characters have memorable faces and expressive body language, but occasionally the action pauses just enough to allow readers to take in the spectacularly realized period setting, an endless labyrinth of busy immigrant neighborhoods, rat-infested harbors, rattling streetcars, and seedy cabarets. Fans of historical thrillers and classic comics alike will delight in this tour through vintage neighborhoods so real one can almost smell the shoe polish. (May)