Trade Secrets – SILENCE & CO

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In a world of organized crime, there are secrets. Secrets and silence. One mafia hitman will learn just how deep the silence goes. Today we’ll be looking at SILENCE & CO, a recently released graphic novel produced and written by Gur Benshemesh and inked by Ron Randoll. We’re kicking off a new series of Trade Secrets with a tale of crime, corruption, and bullets. Many, many bullets.

Every genre of works goes through stages of popularity and quality. There’s usually a few landmark works in a medium that grasps the attention of the public. If there’s more gold to be mined from an idea or story, it will be mined to the core shortly after. A huge mass of copycats, derivatives, and cash ins flood the market. Some are genuinely good, refining an idea with quality and insight. Most are mediocre and formulaic, created to catch the trend. Many are downright awful.

And it’s because of this flood of similar works, the public at large inevitably loses interest or grows sick of it, and then chase the next big trend. The old trend nearly dies, only to crop up every so often, the creations of nostalgic storytellers that would deconstruct, and then reconstruct, the old genre. And finally the world would be richer for it, seeing a steady stream of that genre to fill the gap amongst fans or those looking for variety. This is a pattern seen in westerns, science fiction, film noir, superheroes, and the present big genre bloated in its excess, the paranormal teen romance.

Today we’ll be looking at another such genre (though not nearly as embarrassing as a PTR): the organized crime drama.

SILENCE & CO introduces readers to Alexander Marazano, youngest son to the head of the Marazano crime family and one of its trusted enforcers. Or at least he’d be more welcomed, if not for being the illicit child of the boss and a Puerto Rican maid, and therefore horribly out of place in a traditional Italian organization. But he does have one major ally, his uncle and second in command Saul, who used to freelance.

When Alexander performs a major hit on one of his father’s enemies, Saul recommends that Alexander travel out of the country until the heat dies down. While in Morocco, a local branch of the eponymous Silence & Co offers him a job, which Saul assures will only end in good things because he used to work with them.

Cue everything going wrong in the worst way, and Alexander being forced to fight against one of the biggest, farthest reaching forces in organized crime.

SILENCE & CO is a story of loyalty, betrayal, personal codes, and a lot of people firing a lot of bullets at a lot of other people. It plays most of the classic mafia tropes straight, though with a number of modern details such as the advents in surveillance and hacking technology. It’s not as hard boiled as many straight examples though, since things like combat or the aforementioned surveillance tech is not only depicted realistically, but also explained as to why real life is so little like the genre conventions.

Doesn’t stop it from having a coked out weirdo with an uzi shooting through waves of dudes. To be fair though, Alexander had the guy’s back, and he’s good enough to compensate and even capitalize on the former’s drug-addled insanity.

Artistically, this is a very solid piece. It’s a black and white comic, and everything is competently structured. SILENCE & CO doesn’t really do anything experimental or stylized with its monochrome aesthetic, but it’s a fairly well-worn story all around so it certainly can’t be faulted for being appropriate. It’s all very solid, very decent.

But is it very good? What’s more, is it worth reading? To answer this, remember my explanation above about the waves of genre trends. I included such to illustrate the difference between being of good quality and being groundbreaking. Not every work can be unique, not every work can give its audience something they’ve never seen before. But this is not the same as quality overall. Many milestones in a genre have fundamental flaws that we overlook because of how novel they works as a whole can be.

SILENCE & CO is not going to set the world on fire. It’s thoroughly a genre comic, but it’s one that does it well. If you’re a fan of crime dramas, where jaded hired guns fight the seedier parts of their world on a path of moral redemption, then the best this graphic novel can offer is to be a good, even above average, in giving you more of the same. If you happen to want to get into the genre, by contrast, there are certainly far worse introductions than this.

One last thing. SILENCE & CO clocks in at 170+ pages, and retails for ten dollars. Maybe it’s because it’s black and white, but that’s a bargain compared to most other graphic novels or trade paperbacks you’ll find these days. I paid half that price because the thing was on sale, so I certainly don’t feel ripped off. And last I checked, there were no shortage of copies waiting for a nice owner. So if you have a ten burning a hole in your pocket and looking for an escape to a realm of crime, corruption, and explosions, why not pick it up?

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