Lower Class on Fire!

Bowery Boys

Dark Horse Comics

Writer: Cory Levine
Art: Ian Bertram & Brent McKee

Coming this August from Dark Horse Comics is a powerful historical fiction work based around the union riots of Manhattan in 1853. The series was first produced digitally as a webcomic and is now getting printed as a graphic novel titled Bowery Boys: Our Fathers. The first issue of this story is actually available on Noisetrade at THIS link. The series is written by Cory Levine, who was an assistant editor at Marvel Comics for a good chunk of time. The art is done by Ian Bertram, who has worked on a whole mess of Batman titles as well as a couple of the X team books. Bertram is joined by Brent McKee, most notable for his work on the enjoyable Noble Causes as well as a Super Ego story. 

Bowery Boys has a large cast of characters, the most prominent of which are William McGovern, in charge of the union movement, and his young son Nikolaus. These two are both dealing with the situation of union and strike in different ways. William tries to keep spirits high with rousing speeches that are incredibly powerful (and are, in some ways, relatable to current events). Nikolaus has a more hands on, thefty approach, bringing action, violence, and vigilantism to his father's words, without the father knowing of course. The result is an ironic paradigm shift, resulting in the union being regarded as more of a threat than they truly are and causing tensions to rise drastically. Making things escalate even more quicker is the mysterious "gentleman" Welsh and his army of thugs waiting to hit the union workers hard. When one drastic action is taken, everything gets put into jeopardy for the McGoverns and the rest of the union, leading to what can only end in chaos (and great storytelling).

Levine is intense in this story in all of the right ways. Maybe it is because I have been broke and questioned those with more money than myself, or maybe it is because of the extraordinarily powerful dialogue William is written with, but you feel not only for this main cast, but also for the multitudes of workers who create this union. On the other side of that is Nikolaus and the other children, whose actions could definitely come off as riotous but their dialogue has a strangely aligned innocence. These kids are all relatively young, so this upset is a lot of what they have ever know, and they are doing what they think is best to try to provide comfort in the lives of themselves and their families. Levine also manages to put us in a somewhat similar mindset as the union, giving a persona to Welsh and the upper class that could only be described as antagonistic. Between the striking adults, clandestine children, and the sinister upper class Levine has penned some engaging characters that make for a very engaging story.

The artistic duo on this book has a style that demands attention and produces a very high level of detail. Manhattan is drawn as an appropriately sprawling, filthy, overcrowded metropolis. The characters which occupy this sepia toned setting are all unique in their own ways. The McGoverns and the other lower class folks are drawn to fit in well with the environment, with brown toned clothes and facial expressions that make their demeanor as well as their passion very apparent. Bertram and McKee understand human emtion and are able to capture it in a realistic, powerful way. The upper class, clearly the minority in this society, are drawn pale, with lighter hues and a pampered arrogance drawn into their physiques, producing an even stronger visual dichotomy. The action sequences contain explosive violence and are so fast paced that you can feel the movement as these characters run through the streets. This art style would fit well in a character study story or in an action story, in this issue we really get both!

Bowery Boys, the webcomic turned graphic novel, is a success on all front. An intense yet intriguing story with a definite sense of realism that never lets down the momentum and looks incredible while doing it. If you would like to preorder this graphic novel, you can do so here. If you'd like a preview first, then download book one here!

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