Brownsville is a quality book, obviously a labor of love and skill from two talents. The presentation is handsome, an easy-to-read hardcover at a reasonable price. The themes are universal, dealing with loyalty, different kinds of families, and the urge to belong. The subject is important, a well-researched story of the Jewish mob of the 1930s. It also happens to be one I’m simply not interested in.

Brownsville cover
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I don’t care for gangster stories, so much so that I find them confusing. There are a lot of similar-looking men in similar-looking clothes, and since I don’t have an emotional connection to the characters, I often get them mixed up. That’s not the artist’s fault — it’s an artifact of the period, where it was more important to dress a certain way at certain times than it is now.

I don’t want to empathize with gangsters, nor am I fascinated by what they do. I just want to stay far away from it all. Which means I can’t give this book a fair review; it’s a great example of a genre I don’t want to read. It was kind of neat paging through it and seeing the evocative background recreation of another era, though.

There are preview pages available at the publisher’s website. This interview with the creators gives more background information.

5 Responses to “Brownsville”

  1. Barry Says:

    Another facet of comics reviewing that I find interesting and very different from the rest of the entertainment world. Film critics like Roger Ebert or Leah Rozen or prose critics don’t get to say “I’m not going to watch/read this movie/novel because I’m not interested in the genre or material”. Their job is to give the fairest review possible of the material at hand, fan or not. That’s because it’s their job and naturally they get paid and aren’t critics who run their own website with little to no financial compensation.

    So I’m curious as to how, if you were a paid critic who did this job full-time and had no choice but to review Brownsville, you would put your disinterest or dislike of the genre aside to give it a fair and balanced review.

  2. Johanna Says:

    For my paid jobs, I am sometimes given books to cover that I wouldn’t have chosen. In those cases, though, that’s part of the job. I also have the benefit of editors that are aware of my tastes, strengths, and preferences and take those into consideration when selecting works for me.

    I know a newspaper TV critic who does sometimes trade off with co-workers to better suit material to writer. We often don’t know what factors went into behind-the-scenes decisions at media outlets when deciding what to cover and who will do it. I’m trying to be more transparent about my choices, since this site is just me. My other option was to ignore the book altogether, which I didn’t want to do, since Neil’s a good guy and deserves attention.

    Oh, I guess I could have pretended to write a review but concentrated mostly on plot description and summary. That’s another critic’s trick when they don’t have a strong opinion.

  3. neil kleid Says:

    Hey, to each their own :) I can completely understand that.

    Thanks for the call to attention, Johanna!

  4. The Big Kahn » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] execution doesn’t live up to the potential of the premise. Neil Kleid previously wrote Brownsville and Ninety Candles. This is Nicolas Cinquegrani’s first major work. The publisher has posted […]

  5. Interview With Neil Kleid, Graphic Novel Writer » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Kleid, writer of Brownsville and The Big Kahn and cartoonist of Ninety Candles and various minicomics, has just self-published […]




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