Etgar Keret, writer
Asaf Hanuka, artist
Alternative Comics, 2006
Now this is kind of weird–here’s a comic I appreciate almost purely on a plot level. Adapted from the short prose story of the same name by Keret, Pizzeria Kamikaze is hamstrung by its bland, depthless characters, the sort of twentysomethings cartoonists use to show how boring and purposeless life is for twentysomethings. The flickers of difference that some of them display frequently just flicker out due to storytelling inconsistency–asshole party-boy Uzi’s sweet fondness for his family, for example, is demonstrated through repeated calls to them during his and main character Mordy’s road trip, until at a later point he apparently forgets about them entirely. Meanwhile, Hanuka’s silvertoned black and white art is easy enough on the eyes but more functional than anything else. And in terms of the high concept–the afterlife for suicides is pretty much like the regular world, except maybe even more aimless and dull–certain aspects took me out of the story as much as pulled me in. (If everyone bears the marks of their method of self-destruction, shouldn’t the suicide bombers be a lot more fucked up? Shouldn’t Uzi’s musician friend Kurt have a giant fucking shotgun hole in his head?) If there’s some sort of “inner meaning or ‘message,’” to quote Tolkien, it’s not a particularly powerful one. (Life can devolve into rote and routine, didn’t you know? Young men can invest all sorts of their own issues into an idealized female who inevitably fails to warrant such objectifying devotion, also.)
But the book’s relentlessly deadpan tone pays off when the story takes a turn into left field during the final act. Within fairly short order the main character relationships are upended (mostly in amusingly vicious ways) and the world-building expands in an unexpected and refreshingly sudden fashion. What seemed like an exercise in seen-it-all-before ennui suddenly perks up, plotwise, and in the process becomes a more judgmental and therefore more punchy (and more entertaining) little tale. It’s still on the slight side–it really does feel more like a short story than a graphic novel–but that ending is a hoot.