DC Comics has always used their Vertigo line as a vehicle to tell stories for mature readers and The Kitchen is no exception.
Set in 1970s Hell’s Kitchen, New York, The Kitchen puts a twist on traditional mob stories by making a group of women the mob bosses. This gives the story a fresh feeling even when it dives into classic mob situations.
Comic Books Collected: The Kitchen Issues #1-8
Written by: Ollie Masters
Artist: Ming Doyle
Where to buy: Trade Paperback
Where to buy: Digital Comic (Kindle/Comixology)
The official synopsis, from Vertigo Comics:
New York City, late 1970s. In the world of THE KITCHEN, the Irish gangs of Hell’s Kitchen rule the neighborhood, bringing terror to the streets and doing the dirty work for the Italian Mafia—but after the leaders are locked up in prison, it’s up to their wives to keep running the rackets. And once they get a taste of the fast life and easy money, it won’t be easy to stop.
The Kitchen is a very dark and mature crime story. It is absolutely a classic mob story in many ways. You will see crime, moral dilemmas, betrayal, and many other questions raised.
The book opens with three crime bosses getting arrested and thrown into jail. Their wives quickly discover they need to take over the “business” from their husbands to keep the money flowing. The story follows how they adjust to their new roles and how those new roles change them as people.
I’m not terribly familiar with many mob comic books, so I don’t have much to compare this to. It seems to hit a lot of the same points that most 70s crime stories would. With the story following females, though, there is a fresh perspective as well as some unique story lines.
Like many crime stories, there aren’t really any heroes here. Sure, some of the characters are “better” than others, but, really, they also seem to be in grey areas. Because of this, it can be difficult to find characters to root for or relate to. That’s probably a good thing, though, in a mob story. Part of the point of these stories is that pretty much nothing good can come from getting into crime in the long-term.
The female leads of the book were each strong and interesting characters, in various degrees. They quickly prove to be more effective than their husbands. While I think it’s great that they could quickly prove their power, perhaps they could have spent more time in the learning phase.
I’m glad that the leads prove more effective than their husbands, but I feel there was an opportunity lost in the transition. Seeing them struggle with their new roles could have lead to some dark comedy and rich storytelling. That could have created a smoother transition to the rest of the story.
The supporting characters are where you can find slightly more heroic – and villanous – characters. While the focus is never on them, they do help to further the story along and add to it.
The artwork was very good throughout the mini-series. It certainly helped to convey the tone of the story. Everything time period related seemed on point as well. While I’m not expert on the 1970s, I didn’t find anything in the art that didn’t fit into the story.
The Kitchen has to be one of the quickest comic book adaptations to be put into movie development. The mini-series ran in 2015 and by June 2016, New Line Cinema had hired a screenwriter to develop the project. By early 2017, the writer, Andrea Berloff, was also hired to be the director.
While this is unlikely to be a big budget blockbuster, it’s exciting to see this book being adapted. The comic book fan in me likes seeing some diversity when it comes to developing properties for the big screen. Comic books have such a rich history of stories and characters that deserve to be adapted besides just the superhero spectacles.
The Kitchen is a dark and thoughtful crime story. While the story seems familiar in many ways, having the female perspective in the book makes it feel fresh and allows for some unique situations. It is certainly worth a read if you are a fan of classic mob stories.