In this special edition artist’s cut of Clover Honey, we follow Abigail, or Abbie, as she ventures deeper into her mob family’s activities. She is young, naïve, and a little bit desperate to prove herself to her Uncle Gary, the boss. Somehow, she’s convinced herself that being family gets someone special treatment. But when her cousin Trevor absconds with some dough they’ve collected, dough that is supposed to be delivered to Uncle Gary, Abbie gets a rude awakening.
Her uncle orders her to track down Trevor. “Just find him,” he says. So, Abbie battles her short, shock-white hair, terrible traffic, and smelly public transportation in order to prove that she has what it takes to belong in this family. At first her uncle assures her that he just wants to talk to Trevor. As the novel unfolds, however, Abbie starts to see that perhaps blood is not thicker than water, and that the financial interests of the “family” business will always be the top priority.
Clover Honey is set in the ‘90s in New Jersey and New York. This gritty, fast-paced crime thriller will have you flipping faster and faster through the pages to find out what’s coming next. Don’t get too ahead of yourself though, or you’ll miss all the artwork. It is stark—using only black and white panels and excruciating close-ups of characters in torment. The hard, angular art juxtaposes nicely against the narrator’s dispassionate voice, lending an eerie and suspenseful feeling to this mob story.
There are no heroes in Clover Honey. In fact, the main characters, Abbie and Trevor, are both scummy criminals. They’re stuck in many ways—with their families and with their jobs. They seem destined to continue the pattern of familial mob behavior they grew up with. In fact, it is likely that any lessons Abbie learns by the end of this story will be discarded, and she will continue on with what she knows. It is a sad, nihilistic story, which is unfortunate in that it is far too common and far too relatable. Okay, maybe we don’t all have mob families, but it is so easy to repeat the patterns of behavior of your family, generation after generation.
In the back matter of this special edition, Tomasso’s process is explained and he gives some background information on the original publication. It seems the first twenty pages in the original graphic novel did not match the rest of the novel because, after page twenty, Tomasso began to pencil and plan before inking, whereas the first twenty pages were straight-inked (no pencil, no planning). Here, Tomasso has completely redrawn and re-lettered the entire novel to create a cohesive look.
Image Comics, where Tomasso has been creating a library of his works, has labeled this “M for mature readers,” and that is appropriate. Between the language, violence, nudity, and sexual content, it is probably more suited for older teens or adult readers. I would recommend this for those who enjoy a mob theme, those who love black and white hand-drawn (not digital) art, and those who liked graphic novels such as 100 Bullets, Torso, or Tumor, or the comic series Criminal. If you’re needing to fill out the mysteries and thrillers or the crime section of your collection, this is a good choice.
Clover Honey Special Edition
by Rich Tommaso
Image Comics, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: M