Review by Frank Plowright
Joe Kubert was always an artist with foresight, filling dips in commissions by founding an art school, and also looking to the European album market long before English language graphic novels became common. His Abraham Stone stories were first printed there before receiving a very limited circulation in English.
Set in 1912, Abraham is the country mouse of the title, a teenager who’s travelled to New York for vengeance on the gangsters who murdered his mother. Kubert’s decades of storytelling experience show as he introduces character, motivation and setting over the opening two pages. It’s achieved with such compact elegance, Kubert showing the meagre accommodation Abraham can afford, the crowded New York tenement blocks, washing lines strung between them, and the horror of what occurred, yet without being explicit. A similarly succinct two pages subsequently supply the family history, and in between we see Abraham can handle himself. Will he be tempted and diverted by the easy money offered by a gangster?
Kubert’s foresight is again apparent in the era he sets Abraham Stone. It’s culturally rich, a location for urban predators and prey, yet not one widely exploited. Kubert makes good use of the contrast between the life Abraham’s used to and the ultra-modern city opportunities like cars and the earliest silent movies, while filtering in more of his horrific backstory. It’s with the background details that Kubert excels, with his expressive art, and the thoughtful way he lays out the staged set pieces. The art ensures Country Mouse, City Rat scores above average, but Abraham’s story follows a relatively predictable path and the squalor is over-emphasised, and melodramatic.
Later in 2020 Dark Horse plan to issue a collection combining this with two later stories only ever released as comics in English.