Story by Sunshine Barbito
Art by Débora Caritá
Colors by Mariacristina Federico
Letters by Clem Robins
Original story by Thomas Brooke
Editor Scott Allie
Designer Rick DeLucco
Production Kathryn Renta
Published by Rainworks LLC
Mafiosa #1 is a refreshing take on a classic organized crime story because it follows a female lead and does it so well; without falling into overused and annoying tropes.
The first panel of the story is the ultimate “power move”; Nicoletta, the main character, is shown standing over a man’s dead body reflecting on all of the times in her life she’s been told to “smile more.” This sets the tone for the story. Nicoletta will not be taking anyone’s shit now, or ever; she’s going to get what she wants and she’s going to do it her way. She’s not going to give up her interests or femininity — she won’t adapt to your world—you’ll adapt to hers.
It would’ve been easy for this story to fall into the very tired narrative of “I’m not like other girls” (this is still happening in 2019 and it’s exhausting!), with Nicoletta rejecting values traditionally thought of as feminine in order to take her place in the world of organized crime. Instead a flashback shows Nicoletta practicing her ballet before sneaking off to a meeting between her older brothers and representatives from another crime family. She doesn’t switch between two worlds, between what’s expected of her as a woman and what’s expected of a member of a crime family, rather she merges the two together to get what she wants.
This appears to be a very deliberate choice as the letter from the creative team at the end of the issue explains. Nicoletta enjoys many of the aspects of traditional femininity and doesn’t believe that those traits should shut her out of power. She’ll wear bright red lipstick while committing murder and handle a gun in a dress. She won’t ask for things, she’ll demand them, and heaven help you if you don’t listen.
The way Nicoletta’s drawn the same way as the men in the story enforces this idea of her power. While she may not be as physically strong as some of the men around her she exudes the same level of power. She handles herself with extreme self assurance and confidence taking center stage in the scenes she’s in. No one can silence her or put her in the background.
It’s refreshing that Mafiosa didn’t fall into another often occuring pitfall of the strong female character- the idea that in order to be strong, she has to be emotionless and care for no one. Or her one emotion is anger. Nicoletta has plenty of anger and frustration but it’s not her only emotion. She cares about her family, both biological and the members of the crime family, and that drives her to do the things she does.
Throughout the story Nicoletta’s musings as she disposes of the body are interrupted with panels showing what other guests at the hotel are doing. This compares and contrasts her situation with that of the “normal” guests. While they aren’t all hiding bodies, they’re all hiding secrets of their own. It’s a reminder that no one ever truly knows what happens behind closed doors.