Review by Frank Plowright
The hilariously dark 1930s gangster stories of Luca Torelli’s career continue with a volume encompassing almost all the content of what was previously issued in colour as books 5, 6 and 7 in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In some cases the stories have been retitled, not always for the better, but there’s no doubting the superior translations of these volumes, which are idiomatic rather than precise, and therefore provide authentic voices for the dialogue.
Throughout the series Enrique Sánchez Abulí occasionally drops back into Torpedo’s past, and the opener here is the best of those. Devoid of any leavening humour, it’s a gruesome insight into abusive families. The concluding episode delves back even further detailing how Torelli’s parents came together. This series is noted as ‘complete’, but that’s not the case as a story published by Catalan in 1991 is absent, missing another dip back into the past in which a pre-pubescent Torelli experiments sexually with a willing partner of his own age. Changing times have presumably rendered this too controversial for inclusion.
Every page is again drawn by Jordi Bernet, and again he’s superb. The page of sample art only features Torpedo in shadow, but Bernet opens by brilliantly characterising six characters in a single illustration, then follows up with a couple more. They’re all needed for the longest story in the book, and unlike the lengthy tale in Book 2, this is hilarious, twisted and sustains the interest over 46 pages. It starts with a contract, leads to a double cross, and ends with a double whammy. Bernet is brilliant for every panel, his detailed looseness bringing Torpedo’s entire world to life in a manner reminiscent of the classic kinetic newspaper strip cartoonists of the 1940s, primarily Roy Crane and Milt Caniff.
Abulí covers all aspects of the gangster’s life. In this selection we have the gambling, the killing, the kidnapping, the extortion… For the most part it’s wonderful, creative, and very funny on occasion, but some will consider aspects of Torpedo unsavoury. Torelli’s very much a product of his upbringing, era, and chosen career. His violence and prejudice extends into all quarters, he treats women abominably and lacks the most basic moral compass. Those offended by this can be assured any real life counterpart’s life was short and their ending brutal. Where there’s no excuse however is the repeated use of rape as a motif and the impression given that its okay in the end because all the women enjoy it really. Here it’s trivialised in manner not developed in earlier books, but in that context still leaves a sour taste.
The series continues with material from the 1990s in volume four.