Warning: Potential Spoilers Ahead
All Talk is a book that was sent my way early last year, around the time of my heart attack actually. And for whatever reason, I never got around to checking out the book until very recently and folks… I was left a little on the heartbroken side of things by the end of this 124 page graphic novel by Bartosz Sztybor and Akeussel. The story centers on our boy Rahim, a teenager who wants to be just like his idols in the Gangster life. Unfortunately, he’s not taken very seriously and because of that, he starts to become driven to prove he’s got what it takes. And if it shows up his rival by the name of Era? So much the better! Which starts to show the toxic nature of ‘street cred’ that is part of the exploration of this story Bartosz has set out to tell. I’m also rather liking the fact this isn’t set in America and instead, is set in Berlin. Giving us readers something of a chance to explore a setting outside of America and how they may do the Gangster/Gangsta life there.
I’m also rather liking the support system Bartosz has for Rahim in the form of his grandmother and his two friends; Wiz and Focus. A Pizza Delivery girl and a Drug Dealer respectively. Though I kinda have to wonder if Focus is lying out of his ass with his claims or if he’s truly as good as he says he is when it comes to the drug dealing. As for Wiz, I love that she’s the legit one out of the 3 of them, even if there is some issues there for her due to a horrible rumor spread about her. But its something she does her best to ignore because she knows it doesn’t matter as its not real and it gives her the high moral ground so to speak and it lets those who talk crap truly be idiots at the end of the day.
But I do feel that if Rahim’s grandmother had been honest with him where his dad’s concerned, I feel like things would’ve been very different for Rahim. Which… Would either give us a completely different story or there wouldn’t be much of one at at all.
And if Focus had known how things would ultimately go down, he’d most certainly have wished he’d have kept his mouth shut! Hindsight however, is 20/20. Something that certainly can be applied a lot with this GN for one reason or another. And I’m pretty sure Bartosz even does a self insert parody of sorts at one point in this story as one of Focus’ clients that’s also a Gangsta Rapper. Something Bartosz himself admits to wanting to be way back in the day before going for his current path as a writer. Its fun to see despite the lyrics being a little on the cheesy/cringe side. As for Akeussel’s art, while I do like it to a certain point, I don’t feel its the right fit for this story given the somewhat cartoony vibes the art has to it. Something I feel hurts the story given the serious nature its got going for it.
Rahim’s decisions and the consequences of said decisions ultimately leads to heartbreak. Heartbreak that easily could’ve been avoided had his grandmother told him the truth of his father and perhaps had been more aware of what he was up too when not at home. It brings home the fact that gaining street cred and moving up the ranks of a gang isn’t worth it in the end and its entirely possible his grandmother was going to tell him the truth as he should’ve known it long before the events of the story. Unless of course she and the Cop were talking about marriage instead of talking about telling Rahim the truth as Bartosz kept that whole thing vague between the two adults.
And while I didn’t like the somewhat cartoony vibe of Akeussel’s art, it still managed to convey the story’s heartbreak at the end with Bartosz’ final line of dialogue adding just a bit more as readers can easily see how the news of what’s happened will be handled.
All Talk is available in hardcover and digital formats at Black Panel Press.
All Talk – Graphic Novel
Black Panel Press
Writer: Bartosz Sztybor
Translated by: Celina Bernstein
Reviewer: Rob Wrecks
Summary: Rahim is a suburban kid like any other, a “good kid.” Chilling with his boys, hearing the legends of “Immortal Al,” the greatest gangster who ever lived, it’s hard not to get stars in his eyes. Rahim starts dreaming of becoming a kingpin, idolizing his local gangsters in the hopes of climbing their ranks. But his friends laugh: they say he’s all talk, no action. Until one day, he sees an opportunity to prove himself… but how far will he take it before there’s no turning back?
A modern, urban graphic novel exploring the toxic nature of “street cred” and the role it plays in the lives of vulnerable young men.