The Legend of Pinky: Book 1
Written and Illustrated by Craig Johnson II
Published by Carbon Age Comics
The Legend of Pinky Book I follows Irving Horowitz, AKA “Pinky”, a Jewish man in the 1920s who is heavily invested in organized crime. The story is a complex tale featuring a protagonist whose morality shifts from panel-to-panel.
As a new creator, stepping into the fold with a period piece doubling as a complex character drama is arguably one of the most ambitious moves you can make. Fortunately, the risk pays off from gorgeous artwork and colors from writer/artist Craig Johnson who ask seems to bear a distinctive voice for the story. Readers slowly get to know Pinky’s personal life. Pinky is a mobster with a heavy heart who tries to save women and reject some of inherent racism of the time period while still murdering others in cold blood. The push and pull between his infectious charisma and horrific acts of violence make this title a tragic but endearing look at what life could be like with a character facing such a dangerous occupation. This complex story also shows Pinky is enjoying this dangerous lifestyle and maybe isn’t quite as redeemable as I would like him to be. The heavy themes of segregation play a major role in the story as Pinky is a white man who isn’t accepted by his peers with women of a different skin color than his. There are numerous times when characters question his intentions just because he is interested in women who look different than him.
While this story may not add anything to the anti-hero-laden organized crime genre, The Legend of Pinky introduces familiar tropes with enough charisma to keep me interested throughout the story. The artwork from Johnson II is another huge selling point of the issue. Johnson II’s vibrant, but subtle color work brings out the era the piece is set in. His sinister facial expressions lend a subtext to the comic and when the story introduces some dialogue that is a little more subtle, the work becomes a tense look into when the narrative is going to erupt in violence next–this is a trick I have seen in countless gangster films but is incorporated on the page just a little bit differently and becomes an interesting aspect to make a note of as Johnson II is writing, drawing and coloring this story. The backgrounds in the title carry the mood of the comic nicely, switching between splashes of color or polka-dots.
While the comic overall is strong, the strange lettering holds the issue back on a strictly technical level. The word balloons are too large and the letters are too small. After reading comics from larger publishers, aspects like this stand out like a sore thumb. There were also a few moments where I had a hard time telling the characters in the series apart. Unlike traditional superhero comics, these individuals are constantly changing their clothes and Pinky has a distinctive facial expression but the trend doesn’t expand to the full cast. However, with the backgrounds, beautiful expressions and clothes, I’m more than willing to overlook these problems and recommend the title. Watching Pinky’s role in the gang grow overtime and some of the relationships that he continues to develop with the rest of the cast and characters will likely produce some strong results for the rest of the series. Getting to know creator Craig Johnson II and his wonderful pencils is going to be an undeniable draw towards The Legend of Pinky: Book 1.
Verdict: Buy. The Legend of Pinky is wonderfully drawn character study and time capsule to a unique era in New York City’s organized crime.