On the Ropes
In this follow-up to the graphic novel Kings in Disguise, the authors again, in graphic novel format, present the dire circumstances of Fred Bloch. He is now working for a WPA circus in 1937 America. Times are hard, and there are so few jobs available for anyone. So Fred is an assistant to a daredevil escape artist who pretends to be about to hang himself every night and in between acts drinks himself into nastiness followed by oblivion in sleep. The only thing revealed clearly in this detailed novel is that the ongoing struggle between the police, hoods and union organizers/strikers is increasing throughout the United States. Anyone involved in it is bound to meet extreme violence, but the rebels who have a cause are given a noble, suffering image herein. What really strikes the reader, however, is the hopeless dreams of the main characters, smashed through personal tragedy and unwise decisions long ago, a mystery to be revealed slowly throughout the story. Aside from secret letters and the inane dialogue between hoods trying to catch the secret messages that alert rebels to strike dates, etc., a great deal of tedious repetition occurs in what is otherwise a dynamic, valuable graphic presentation of a significant historical period.