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Illegal Cargo


Although he had never been the most present father, José Sendero, an elderly Salvadoran, has always wanted the best for his daughter, Helena, who now lives far away in America. When an unexpected messenger arrives at his door, José must decide whether to bury his head in the sand, or leave everything he knows behind to be there for his daughter when she needs him most.

Written and illustrated by Mexico City-based comic artist Augusto Mora, Illegal Cargo is a 96-page graphic novel inspired by the touching true stories of everyday migrants on perilous journeys North from Central and South America.

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"A really fantastic graphic novel."
Graphic Policy

"The art is also gorgeous, the varying characters and terrain rendered in vivid detail and beautiful colors."
Reading Vicariously

"Yes, I’m assuming you’re going to go read it – because everyone should."
Leigh's Bookish Life

Additional information


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Augusto Mora, Author
Augusto Mora is a comicbook author. His work as a graphic novelist has been displayed in exhibitions around the world, including “José Guadalupe Posada. El gran ilustrador de lo mexicano” at the Mexican History Museum of Monterrey; “BDMEX 2014” at Blueberry Festival, Bourgues France ; “Paginas vivas” at Island Museum at Cozumel and “Where are they taking us?” at the Lawndale Art Center, in Houston, TX. He has written and illustrated several graphic novels, including: “El Maizo, la maldición del vastago” 2010, “Tiempos Muertos” 2012, “Muerte Querida” 2012, “Grito de Victoria” 2013, “Fuertes Declaraciones” 2014, “¿A donde nos llevan” 2015 and “Encuentro en la Tormenta” 2018. He worked at MAD Magazine Mexico, El Chamuco, Milenio Diario newspaper, El Universal newspaper and Emeequis magazine. Augusto won the 1st Graphic Novel Award by Editorial Jus. He got the “Jovenes Creadores” scholarship twice in 2014 and in 2016 granted by FONCA.
March 20, 2024

5.0 out of 5 stars You didn't hear this from me...

But this was a nice intro to the story of Al Capone. As someone from Chicago it felt like a little bit of out hidden history in my hands.

Hunter van Lierop
March 20, 2024

4.0 out of 5 stars All the Crime & Cannoli

Had the pleasure of reading this remarkable book that gave us a different look into one the world of one of the most notorious mobsters in American History. The “unreliable” narrator aspect is my favorite part, all being told in a seemingly “private” confessional with his mother. The way he explains it to her is great especially when we get to see how the panels depict his choice in words. Overall it’s a great read with a dynamic artstyle accompanied with comforting colors and great paneling.

March 19, 2024

5.0 out of 5 stars A fun read for true crime and comic nerds

This was a lot of fun to read. Just the right combination of grit and gangster to make a compelling graphic novel. The way the imagery and dialogue play off each other was also really well done.

March 19, 2024

5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Perspective

The graphic novel is told from the point of view of Al Capone himself, writing to his mother from his prison cell. The story is created from a mixture of true life stories and myths, and Al Capone himself chooses to downplay his own crimes and paint himself as the good guy to his mother. This is in contrast to what the gritty illustrations themselves show the reader. That said, the drawings are stunning and I enjoyed the mixture of the crisp Art Deco graphics and the sketchy crayon-style character art. Overall, this is a fun read, especially for anyone with an interest in true crime and/or American history!

William Kraut
November 18, 2023

5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest gangster of all time

The book utilizes a common device: it is told in the first person, as Alphonso Capone- on his way to Alcatraz prison-, attempts to justify his life to his mother. This allows the reader to make Capone the hero of the story, and sympathize with him, and at the same time judge him as the vicious murderous thug he is portrayed as being. We get to watch Capone invent or improve all the ways a thug can become a crime boss: intimidation, violence, buying crooked politicians, etc. while the voice-over has Capone claiming his innocence and victimization. Violence, in particular, was a major part of Al Capone's life, apparently. As a warning to the reader, the book doesn't stint on showing the pitched battles he was involved in, along with beatings, gangland slayings (including, of course, the Saint Valentine's day massacre), and more. The illustrator Pierre-Francois Radice, uses a Brutalist style to convey these events. It is very effective, but it's not "cartoon violence" so I suggest this is not a book for children. About the artwork: kudos to M. Radice for excellent pictorial story-telling. There are full-page and two-page spreads that are brilliant: a scene-setting view of Brooklyn in 1899 with the Brooklyn Bridge being built in the background; a meeting of Chicago crime bosses, with Capone getting angry at the way the Italian mob is being treated; an overhead view of the squalid Alcatraz prison cell where Capone lived for more than a decade; Capone at his height as the King of Chicago contemplating his city from an Art Deco stuffed penthouse. This is a terrific book. Excellent writing, excellent illustrations. If your collection includes graphic novels, consider including Capone.

Joshua Walker
November 18, 2023

5.0 out of 5 stars Had me at "Based on truth, lies, myths, and rumors..."

The teaser on the back of the book grabbed me right away: "Based on truth, lies, myths, and rumors..." The bold, vintage-style graphics reminded me of children's classics like Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel and the original Curious George books, but darker -- much, much darker! Plenty of blood and even a bit of nudity! My favorite, though, is that the story is told in the voice of Al Capone himself. The setup is that ol' Scarface is telling his mother the truth about his life, and it works so well, especially when the violence that we see contradicts what Capone tells his dear mama. It made me want to rewatch some of the classic gangster films, scroll through old photo archives of Chicago, and learn more about the organizzazione. A fun read for a weekend afternoon!

November 9, 2023

4.0 out of 5 stars Great gift

I gave this to my husband because he's a fan of true crime and has an extensive manga collection. He enjoyed reading it and the hardcover seems to be good quality so is a great addition to his collection.

J. Turnof
November 7, 2023

5.0 out of 5 stars This was GREAT

I loved this book. The art was fantastic. The story felt real. I loved it. If you can, read it and enjoy it!

October 14, 2023

5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating and Beautifully Rendered

A fantastic treatment of America's most legendary gangster. Capone narrates his own life here, unreliable narration and all, and it's all treated in such an inventive way. Meanwhile, I could get lost in PF Radice's beautifully drawn cityscapes for hours. The cartoonish nature of the illustrations effectively contrasts with the violence and despair that defined Capone's life. Well worth adding to your collection. I imagine I'll be pulling this one down off the shelf a lot in the future.

January 24, 2021

4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good.

Pretty good.

December 29, 2020

5.0 out of 5 stars Good graphic novel that deals with an important issue.

This book took a very sensitive approach to the serious issue of immigration and family separation. The book was well illustrated and this made the subject not difficult for a young person - my son is 12 - to understand and digest. There are some dark moments and images that are probably too serious for younger children to view. This graphic novel is an excellent way to share the experiences of immigrants sacrificing all to get to a better, safer life.

December 4, 2020

4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the read

That story was really good, well written and great animation. It leaves one craving for more.

October 21, 2020

5.0 out of 5 stars A unique graphic novel that brings forth a quality story with thought-provoking meaning and purpose.

I purchased this as a gift and was really impressed with the quality of the artwork in this graphic novel. I couldn’t help but read through some of the story and immediately can recognize that this is a story that will resonate with many in so many different contexts, and most certainly should be told and heard today. A unique graphic novel that brings to light a quality story that has thought-provoking meaning and purpose. I highly recommend this awesomely illustrated and colorful graphic novel that is absolutely unique in every way, telling an intriguing story with underlying purpose and meaning at the core.

Conor Carton
September 26, 2020

4.0 out of 5 stars Very engaging and unexpected, a really good comic

Illegal Cargo is a deeply engaging comic tracing the journey a father takes to try and find his daughter in Mexico. Helena had left El Slavador to go to the USA for a better life and is last heard from in Mexico City. Her father, Jose, sets out to find her after a strange encounter. The journey is brutal and the comclusion unexpected. The story is grim, the travellers are preyed upon at every opportunity by thieves and gangstars, they take terrible risks riding on the top of rail cars. Augusta Mora never lets his cast be simply steryotypes or symbols, they have the spark of life and all are fighting to survive. Jose travells a double journey, both physically and one of redemption for a barely lived life. The art is sharp and engaging, the cast are given worn out faces and bruised bodies, everyone has been battered by their life. The body language is elequont as they struggle to survive. The walk on parts and the supporting cast are given the opportunity to register with the reader and stand for themselves. The colours are a joy, they catch and manage the emotional tone for the story with subtle grace, they weight and depth to the art. The lettering is functional, it is easy to read without adding anything in particular to the comic. Illegal Cargo is clearly the product of a distinctive creative imagination ad strong story telling craft, it packs a punch that makes it a pleasure to read.

September 23, 2020

5.0 out of 5 stars Good story from new (to me) creator

This Book is a compelling story about immigration and mystery from an author that I took a gamble on. I had never heard of "Illegal Cargo" nor had I heard of Augusto Mora. I am glad to call myself a fan of both now. Great story, wonderful art and supporting a new creator. Thank you for this book and I cant wait for Vol 2!

Andrea H.
August 20, 2020

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, Moving, and Informative

Illegal Cargo is one of the best graphic novels I've read in a long time. The story invoked an emotional response from me at numerous junctures. The art itself was visually stunning. I often found myself stopping to take a photo; I would happily hang any page of this graphic novel on my wall as its own art! The subject matter is something often in the news but rarely depicted with the individuality or empathy that this graphic novel treats it with. The ending blew me away. I thought I knew what was coming from the beginning of the story but I was totally surprised and moved. This graphic novel is perfect whether you're looking for beautiful illustrations, a compelling plot line, or more information about the perilous experience of immigration.

Ben Long
August 18, 2020

4.0 out of 5 stars A heartbreaking tale of immigration, family, and loss

Illegal Cargo is a 96-page graphic novel about José Sendero, an elderly Salvadoran on a perilous journey to find his missing daughter. Inspired by the true stories of everyday immigrants on their way to the United States from places like South America and Mexico and the tireless work of humanitarian organizations like Las Patronas who support them. Written in English by Augusto Mora, a Mexican artist and author of various web comics, graphic novels, and short stories These types of stories are always tough to read because they’re so heavily based on real trauma and events. The story is a heartbreaking one, and you really empathize with José and the other immigrants as they face numerous life or death perils on their journey. The point of this comic is to raise awareness about social issues just as much as it is to tell a good story. On both accounts it succeeds In addition to following José I also enjoyed the storyline featuring the benign spirit (La Siguanaba: part woman, part horse skeleton) pushing him onward, as well as the one with the Mexican gangsters. The art is also gorgeous, the varying characters and terrain rendered in vivid detail and beautiful colors. The story moves quickly and ends on a somber, somewhat dissatisfying note (though I understand the point of it), but all in all I really enjoyed this book!

jordan johnson
August 13, 2020

4.0 out of 5 stars Wow

I love the artwork but it kind made me sad all these people missing

James Jeffrey
July 25, 2020

5.0 out of 5 stars A Story of Family, Love, and the Dangers of Migration

It’s my pleasure to review the Graphic Novel “Illegal Cargo” by writer and artist Augusto Mora published by Black Panel Press. The artwork inside is beautiful. It is reminiscent of Jeff Lemire of Sweet tooth and Essex County fame as well as Rob Guillory of Chew fame. It’s atmospheric and interpretive of life. The colors change to indicate feelings and situations the story demands. It’s a beautiful book indeed. Some may find the artwork simple, but that serves the story it is telling and is a style choice that I absolutely enjoyed. The story involves a father who receives bad news about his daughter that has migrated north with the intent of arriving in the United States. Apparently she hasn’t been heard from by friends of hers that were monitoring her progress by cell phone tracking. A supernatural experience by her father, Jose, convinces him to follow her perilous journey to find her. No spoilers, but the realism of the characters and situations encountered on the journey pull you into the story. I was not able to put the book down. I consumed it in one sitting. No spoilers here but I appreciate the author giving a more truthful and ambiguous account of the daughter and the father. There is adult language; parents may want to review first. I wholeheartedly give Illegal Cargo my highest recommendation. The story is engrossing, the art is beautiful and the book is a good size to fully immerse the reader in the artwork. It is printed with high quality cover stock and paper stock pages. I think this book is well worth your money and time if for no other reason than to safely put you in the shoes of someone having to travel in a most dangerous way that most North Americans will never experience. Review by James Jeffrey

Illegal Cargo

(21 customer reviews)