Comic Book Therapy Reviews: Anthony Bourdain’s Get Jiro!

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Last week saw the release of the Graphic Novel Get Jiro onto comic book shelves. Many of you may have seen the ads for this Graphic Novel stuck in the pages of your Vertigo books for the past few months. I for one eagerly looked forward to it.  “Get Jiro!” Is written in part by the infamous Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain is fairly well known for not only his book Kitchen Confidential and other publications, but also for his food and travel show No Reservations and The Layover which have become widely popular on the Travel channel.  Chances are you have seen or at least have heard of Anthony Bourdain in some manner within modern media pop-culture.

So what’s a food guy doing writing a comic book?  Well to be honest it’s not a far stretch for Mr. Bourdain to co-author a great Graphic such as Get Jiro!  I myself am a big fan of Tony Bourdain. I have watched many an episode of his very cool show No Reservations and have read many of his books on food, as well as his works of fiction which tend to be a mixture of gangsters and tough guys, mixed in with the darker shades of the culinary world. So Get Jiro! Is not a far stretch for already great writer to produce.  I was excited about this Graphic Novel coming out as Anthony Bourdain has been a personal inspiration to me not only to try new foods but an inspiration in my style of writing as well. Mr. Bourdain has always eschewed the mantra of being bold and eating what the locals eat when traveling abroad.  Excellent advise by the way, but also great advice for comic book readers as well.  How so? Well with the thought of being brave and open enough to at least try any dish at least once, the same can be said for comic books. Rather than sticking with the big two (DC and Marvel) be a little daring and give other titles and imprints a try, you never know what new  comic book  flavors you are going to like.

Now before we get to the actual review I have to preface it with this: Anthony Bourdain has sort of become a poster boy for what are known as Foodies.  Now if you have not heard of this term, consult the almighty oracle Google to get a better understanding of what a Foodie is.  Now Foodie has any number of definitions attached to it, much like Comic Book, nerd, geek, collector, hobbyists, lover, or aficionado can mean any number of Sci-Fi, Comic Book, Art, Pop-Culture combinations.  But in short a Foodie is a lover of food. But not just a lover of food, a Fanatical lover of food. And believe me these people are as fanatical as we are about Comic Books.  (I should know my younger sister is one.) A Foodie will drone on for hours on end about the merits of one dish vs. another like some of us will drone on about Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis.  A Foodie will drop a stack of bills on a single meal like we Comic Bookers will drop on an issue of Incredible Hulk #181.  So why the preface?  Well not only because Anthony Bourdain co-authored this book, but also because this is the whole foundation, the whole motif if you will of Get Jiro!

Get Jiro!, written by Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose. Art by Langdon Foss, with Jose Villarrubia and Dave Stewart on awesome colors.  Lettering is done by Todd Klein.  Published by Vertigo Get Jiro! Takes place in Los Angeles in the future. A somewhat post-apocalyptic future where L.A. is broken up into the inner and outer rings. The inner rings are of course where the affluent and privileged live and eat. While the outer rings of the city are the dregs where the commoners, the worker bees live and eat. But rather than this dystopian future city of angles being ruled by those who have the guns, hydro, fuel, drugs, or any other precious resource that we have seen rule these future worlds from hell. No, here in this vision of the future all are ruled by food and the two ever battling war-lord foodies.  War-Foodies?   Bourdain and Joel Rose paint a picture where chefs and their kitchens rule the city if not the world.  A world where people live and die literally by the restaurant reservation that they have.  But in the outer rings we meet our lone hero, Jiro.

A former Yakuza solider now turned master Sushi chef who is happy to plug along in the outer rings, producing his wonderfully created tasty morsels for any and all who happen to walk into his little restaurant. Anyone who knows proper Sushi etiquette that is… which is what tips off our whole story for our Hero.  When a couple of loud obnoxious customers come in and order the California Roll, and destroy Jiro’s sushi creations by drenching them in Wasabi and Soy sauce.  Jiro quickly takes his Sushi Knife to the insulting customer and it’s off with his head time.

However such a death does not go unnoticed by Bob and Rose the two Food War Lord’s whom rule and fight over the city, a battle for culinary philosophies, power, and of course turf.  Each coming from and imposing the will of their culinary backgrounds upon the inner rings. Bob from the high-end, haute traditionalist cuisine, Rose from the organic, vegan, locally-grown movement. But each as ruthless as any comic book villain that we have come across. In a world where food rules all, death over a tomato is not an uncommon practice. So who was that man that our hero Jiro beheaded? Bob the food lord’s food distributor.  Thus gaining the attention of Bob and in turn Rose for why should one war lord claim victory over the other by adding a dangerous  man such as Jiro to their food gang ranks, thus tipping the scale in either on or the other’s favor.

What ensues is the traditional tale of two gangsters fighting over a hired gun. Both sides want Jiro and both try to woo him with promises of wealth and prime restaurant venues within the inner rings.  And Jiro plays both sides all the while with the plan to stay one step ahead of both food lords, and maybe bring one or both of them down in the process. In fact the plot itself is rather played out and is pretty much an exact copy of Bruce Willis’s movie Last Man Standing, right down to the sympathetic female sous chef aiding Jiro escape capture and defeating her former gang boss.   In the end all out war breaks out between Bob and Rose. But Jiro is triumphant with the aid of the small restaurateurs who are tired of being kicked around in the outer rings and revolt to bring an end to the two Chef War lords’ rule and bloody battle of food culture supremacy.  So why should you read this graphic novel, if the plot itself has been played out and re-packaged so many times over? Why do I highly recommend reading this bit of comic book work?

Well for one thing the Art is masterful. Langdon Foss’s style is simply amazing!!  His art work seems to be a cross of Geoff Darrow’s high level of detail with the smooth rounded intricate lines of Frank Quietly.  But really Foss is an artist all on his own, with crazy attention to detail both at the Macro and Micro levels.  As you turn each page you notice all the little things that Foss has incorporated into the pages, the little details that make the world of Bourdain and Joel Rose come alive. I think Foss was the perfect artist for this book where his talents along with Villarrubia and Stewart come together to marry the art of the comic book world with the art of the culinary world.   (I hope and am sure that we will see a lot more of great work from Foss in the Comic Book world.)  Todd Klein does a beautiful job with the lettering and word balloons as on some pages the perfect placement within the page leads your eye to which panel to go to next and keeps the story moving along in an even and smooth pace.

And of course we come back to the writing of Bourdain and Rose which is yet another reason to pick up this Graphic Novel. Throughout the entire story Bourdain places tid-bits from his world of gastronomy as we follow Jiro on his adventure.  From the very weapons that the characters use too some culinary gems that I recognized from both his show and books.  Such as the scenes where Bob and his Cadre eat Ortolan or the roasting of baby Elevers to entice Jiro to join their side.  Really in every page there is something to learn and soak in from the world of food. Truth be told I can’t help but wonder if this how Bourdain if not all chefs would remake the world in their own image if they ever got a hold of a cosmic cube or infinity gauntlet.  For many readers you may not understand or get all the food exchanges in Get Jiro! But that’s what makes this such a great read. It’s a new spin, a new flavor on an old and highly used plot line. Much like a chef revisiting an old basic dish and giving it new life.

Now this is where most would say that Get Jiro! Is a great vehicle to get these food lovers into comics.  It’s a chance to bring new readers to the medium that we love so much here at Comic Book Therapy.  But that’s not what this is. And I would expect nothing less from Anthony Bourdain.  What Get Jiro is, is a vehicle to get comic book lovers into the world of food. To get those brain cells firing and loving another popular art form that all can enjoy, namely food.  While you may never become a full fledged foodie, because one obsession, one vice is bad enough. Get Jiro lets you at least take a little peek into the world of gastronomy and appreciate for a bit someone else’s passion for food and cooking. It lets you see another world of art and creativity through the lenses of our favorite art form, comic books.

So go get, Get Jiro! It’s a beautiful and great read.  I highly recommend it. And remember “No California Roll!”

 

Get Jiro!

  • Price: $24.99 USD
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Vertigo (July 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401228275
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401228279

 

P.S. This is a Vertigo publication so be aware of sex and violence within these pages, in other words not for the kiddies.

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