Monday, April 22, 2013

Advance Review: Silence & Co. by Benshemesh & Randall, Out May 29

Silence & Co
By Gur Benshemesh & Ron Randall
Crystal Productions, 2013
Silence & Co. is a new original graphic novel written (and, it seems, published) by newcomer Gur Benshemesh and illustrated by Ron Randall, coming out at the end of May. The story opens with Alexander Maranzano, a hit-man for a legendary New York Crime family rolling up on a federal judge in the dead of winter and putting a bullet in his head; the judge was prosecuting his father for something crime bossy. Alexander was raised by his uncle because he was the illegitimate son of his father and a Puerto Rican woman - as such he was largely disowned by his family but still does hits for them. A one time special forces military type, he heads to Marakesh to lay low from the heat. While chilling at the pool, he's approached by some cokehead assassin to run a quick job out there. After deftly handling it despite the myriad problems, the (now dead) cokehead's employers - some mysterious organization called Silence & Co. - hire Alexander for an elaborate hit on a Colombian drug lord, for the unreal sum of ten million dollars. This all happens fairly quickly, and it was at this point that the story devolves into a complete mess.

Now to be clear, the story is cohesive, the stakes clear, the action straightforward. But it strains, if not outright breaks, the suspension of disbelief. Silence & Co. hire Alexander, who is a family hitman and not a free agent, but whatever, and offer to pay him the completely unbelievable sum to coordinate the hit on the drug-lord, when it becomes obvious that Silence & Co. are more than capable of handling the operation themselves. The operation itself is this insane over-the-top military assault featuring attack helicopters and dozens of paramilitaries. The story, which started out as a promising noir about a disillusioned hitman becomes this ridiculous and completely unnecessary wargasm. And then naturally there are double crosses and a pretty girl Alexander refuses to kill. See, the pretty girl is the mistress/accountant of the crime boss, so that somehow makes her a civilian, and Alexander doesn't kill civilians, although he does kill lots and lots of worker bees in the crime organization, but she's a pretty girl so she gets a pass. Oh! And also, not only was Alexander a military special forces officer but he was ALSO some kind of secret super-hacker for the government and at one point he creates some kind of superworm that infiltrates and wipes out the computers of some crime organization that's been around for centuries. And despite being a known assassin he's given control of an Internal Affairs sting on an FBI senior agent. And then there's more double crosses. And then, and then, and then. And then. Sometimes too much is too much.

Ron Randall's black-and-white art is decent, though there is one silly splash page that seems like something swiped from a Kirby Sgt. Fury issue. His stuff is stronger in the straightforward noir scenes but can't quite live up to the inanity/insanity of the war-stuff. Randall doesn't receive any kind of cover credit which is frankly unacceptable. I guess Benshemesh - who has not previously written anything and is also credited here as "producer" - paid for everything and is publishing it himself, but that doesn't make you the sole author, dude. There are also odd bits about the final product, like the needless use of quotes within the narration captions and the use of asterisks with explanatory captions noting that the characters are speaking Spanish in every single word balloon that characters speak Spanish. Amateur foolishness like that almost seems like a parody (not to mention easily caught production mistakes like comas where apostrophes should be).

Silence & Co. is a self-published vanity graphic novel from a writer who is not frankly ready for prime-time. Maybe if he held back and did a New York crime story instead of throwing all that spaghetti at the wall it would have been a stronger work. In the first few pages I honestly thought the comic would be a nice follow up to fill the void left by the superb hitman graphic novels from Europe, The Killer. But in the end I was just left thirsting for more of the subtle, psychological international thrillers in Matz & Luc Jacamon's killer Killer to clear the bad taste left by this repeatedly sharkjumping mess.

Silence & Co. will be released to comic shops on May 29. For more visit


  1. Dear Jeffrey,

    Unfortunate that you did not enjoy the book more, but in the name of fairness I would like to point out that a number of respected online reviewers, including CBR and WCBR, were far more positive, and the book is currently sitting at a 9.5/10 on

    If you’d like, you can take a look at all of our reviews on our website at

    In particular, I would point you to our write-up in Law in the Multiverse, which praised the realism of the story throughout.

    I’d also like to invite you to view our latest trailer, available now on youtube at Perhaps if you had seen this before reading the advanced copy, you would have found the tonal shift less traumatic.

    In any case, I wanted to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule, particularly in light of your store’s recent relocation, to post a negative review of this small passion project from a new publisher; the product of so much hard work by so many talented people. It is pillars of the online comics community like your good self that make it such a welcoming medium for newcomers and help ensure the wonderful diversity of this art form we all love so much; reviewers willing to embrace the new rather than continually wallowing in re-hashed, warn-out superhero tropes.

    Kind Regards,

    Gur Benshemesh

    1. Mr. Benshemesh,

      Thanks for your comments. First, I am aware of the positive reviews for your book (congrats). However, the presence of differing opinions of a book does not change my own objective opinion of the work. I didn't like the comic, and I very clearly explained why, above. I stand by my review (even if it is contrary to critical consensus). As with any review in any forum, intelligent readers of this website can easily gauge my tastes in comics by the variety of works reviewed and the quality of those opinions, (which is how such things should ideally work).

      You seem to take issue with the fact that I didn't like the book and said as much, rather than with any of the substance of my review, which is unfortunate. You do point out that I could have been been better prepared for the tonal shift if I had watched the trailer, but one shouldn't need to watch a youtube video to form a view on a work, and it honestly doesn't change my opinion of the comic.

      I sense you are being facetious in your final paragraph. I have no problem with independent works, quite the opposite. Again, readers are welcome to gauge my opinion against my other reviews, which run from mainstream superhero to classics to international works to manga to all ages works and everything in between. And they are also welcome to disagree and try out your book despite my views.

      Let me also make it clear that I do not discount the work that you and Mr. Randall put into the book. I just plain didn't like the end result and felt moved to say why (I don't review every book I read). And please note that I make Ron Randall's contributions to the work clear, something you don't do (as I noted) by not giving him proper cover credit, something befuddling if not outright completely unacceptable.

      I will not be facetious here: despite my opinion of the book, I really do wish you and Mr. Randall the best and would have no problem if the book was a smashing success. Any successful comic is good for comics, especially independent comics... even if they're not very good.