The GeeksverseREVIEW | The Realist (BOOM!/Archaia)

REVIEW | The Realist (BOOM!/Archaia)
Published on Wednesday, July 22, 2015 by
Asaf Hanuka’s The Realist offers an uncommon, humor-laced perspective on daily life in Tel Aviv.

  • Realist_coverHardcover/full color/$24.99 (US)
  • Story & art: Asaf Hanuka
  • Publisher’s description: “Acclaimed Israeli cartoonist Asaf Hanuka’s weekly strips unfold an emotional autobiography full of humor and melancholy, wild imagination, and quiet desperation. Collected for the first time in English and including never-before-collected strips, The Realist delivers both honesty and whimsy from a master of his craft. With echoes of R. Crumb and Daniel Clowes, Hanuka moves readers with his depictions of everyday life, commenting on everything from marriage to technology to social activism through intimate moments of triumph and failure.”

Comics and cartooning’s unparalleled accessibility as a medium for bridging the cultural divide is on full display in The Realist, BOOM!/Archaia’s hardcover collection of Asaf Hanuka’s autobiographical webcomic of the same name.

It is an unfortunate reality of the times that almost any discussion of contemporary Israeli life—in comics or any other medium—is colored by the combustible political situation of the Middle East, so Hanuka’s intimate, ground-level portrayal of daily life in Tel Aviv offers a refreshing and humanizing alternative to the more detached political cartoons about the region that one commonly finds. The cartoonist’s depiction of the struggles to provide for a family on a meager salary, his and his wife’s anxiety over the uncertainty of their shared future, the natural comedy of parenting and housekeeping, and his own private neuroses renders the real-world characters who populate the webcomic as people readers can relate to no matter their level of familiarity with Israeli culture.

This isn’t to suggest that Hanuka ignores the topic of regional politics entirely. Quite the opposite, in fact—the prospect of war, the issues of race and religion, and Hanuka’s uneasiness over the militarization of Israeli society loom large in the thematic background, and are directly addressed in several strips. Still, The Realist‘s emphasis is on human relationships and Hanuka’s inner monologue.

The Realist is, first and foremost, a humor comic and it succeeds at being funny in different ways. Many of the best strips combine inventive, absurdist visual gags with self-deprecating reflection—a marriage of “funny ha ha!” and “funny sad” moments that will have readers laughing out loud and sympathizing with Hanuka at the same time. Those visual gags wouldn’t work so well if not for Hanuka’s detailed illustrations. The contrast between the comic’s somewhat naturalistic art style and the frequently surreal treatment of the subject matter adds a layer of visual irony on top of everything else.

As with any webcomic that has run for as long as it has—five years to date—there are the occasional duds in the collection. Those are vastly outnumbered by the good bits, however, and this volume is as good an introduction as any to the work of one of Israel’s brightest comics talents.

Recommended.

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