Luna Park, the latest release in Vertigo’s superb line of original graphic novels, is a tale not all that unfamiliar, but presented with harrowing visuals and a narrative that lures the reader in with the promise of redemption for the main character, but soon descends into an avant garde fit of madness.
Kevin Baker, author of the New York Times bestsellers Dreamland, Paradise Alley, and Strivers Row, sets forth the story of Alik, a Russian immigrant who came to America with hope in his heart, leaving behind a history of violence and war. Unfortunately, the land of opportunity only brings Alik the chance to be an enforcer for a local mob goon based out of Brooklyn, New York. Set predominately in the fantastic Coney Island of Brooklyn, Alik soon realizes that his hopes of saving the woman he loves and their mutual life in the slums are somehow connected to the life in Russia that he left behind.
When I first read the solicitations for Luna Park, I was intrigued by Vertigo’s claim that the tale would visit different time periods. What I didn’t expect was the way in which it would be presented. The second half of the book evolves into a very surreal and very horrifying look at how the history of Russia as a civilization has brought Alik to the point he is at. It’s an oppressively heavy look at a depressing situation, done in a way that only a comic book could handle. Baker makes his characters transcend their own timeline, exploring the Russian heritage that is so essential to the story he is telling. Along the way, Baker somehow manages brief forays into fortune telling, crime fiction, and drug addiciton, keeping the book well paced but adding numerous dimensions to the already multifaceted story he is telling.
And, don’t forget to check out our interview with Luna Park’s Kevin Baker.