Mafiosa graphic novel review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Dark Horse - 978-1-50672-154-5
  • Release date: 2021
  • UPC: 9781506721545
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Crime, Period drama

The title instantly supplies the genre of Sunshine Barbito’s look back to the 1920s during the early days of organised crime. Teenage Nicoletta Marchesi loves her ballet dancing, but also feels she’s every bit the equal of her brothers when it comes to joining the family business, a view not shared by her father. The final straw for her comes on learning she’s expected to marry a stranger to cement an alliance with another crime outfit.

Nicoletta’s frustrations are well aired, and there’s a strong starting point with the idea of focussing on a woman in an organised crime story when they’re usually only given sexual roles, or that of the dutiful long-suffering wife. However, what might otherwise be a gut-wrenching drama is scuppered by poor storytelling, with both primary creators responsible. There’s no clear demarcation between past and present or fact and fantasy as Barbito’s chosen method of storytelling is to hop between all four rather than take the straight path, which would be more effective. Pencil artist Alessia Alfano is good in some respects, a decorative style being one, but a lack of thought about panel to panel continuity is frequently apparent. At times the reader is left wondering why one character appears to be moving at super speed while all others remain still. One early moment of confusion concerns the placement of people around a car, and the symbolic use of bloodstained white shirts is a trick used too often.

As time moves on, Nicoletta is given her break, and what follows builds to a problem that might blow everything apart. The essential conflict is good. Why should women be second class, even in organised crime? The execution, so to speak, just doesn’t work, though.