Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mike's Place

Mike's Place is a gripping, heartfelt true story about a blues bar in Tel Aviv that was attacked by a suicide bomber in 2003. The events were also depicted in the 2004 documentary Blues by the Beach, and two of the filmmakers wrote this graphic novel. The documentary was in the works already, an attempt to capture the spirit of Mike's Place and why it was a place of joy amidst much turmoil. It turns out that terrorists targeted this establishment because it was such a center of joy and relief, and their true life narrative turned tragic.
What is impressive about this book to me is how much it tackles. It gives a human face to the "Mike's Place family," the people who worked and played at the bar, some who lost their lives and all who were victims of the violence.  Getting to know these folks endeared them to me and gives the final events more impact while putting a human face on these events.
The book also has the intrigue of a thriller with glimpses into how the bombing was planned and carried out. It clearly depicts the social and political circumstances in Israel at the time that bring about this horrible act as well as its resulting grief and aftermath.

Finally, this book is a critique of the use of violence by religious extremists, a point driven home by the use of quotations from the Qur'an that open each chapter of the book.

This graphic novel was written by Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem, who are also characters in the story, and drawn by Koren Shadmi. Baxter was a producer of the 2004 documentary film and Faudem the director. Baxter speaks about the creation of this graphic novel in this interview. Shadmi is an artist who has worked on a webcomic The Abaddon as well as published a collection of short comics stories called In the Flesh. Here, his artwork leans toward realism, and he does very well in conveying emotions, personalities, and actions via journalistic black and white images.

All of the reviews I have read about this book describe a book that is powerful and moving. Brett called it "beautifully haunting." Bradley Campbell called it "a gripping read" that "shows you that people have the ability to heal; but it also shows how difficult, complicated and saddening the healing process can be." Joe Gordon wrote, "It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s upsetting, it’s inspiring, it has happy moments of laughter and dreadful troughs of despair, just like life, really, but through all of the events here remains that warm, human feeling of inclusion and family, perhaps our only real defence and hope against the hatred in the world."

Mike's Place was published by First Second, and they have a preview and more info available here.  There is also a video trailer of the book posted here.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. Thank you, Gina!

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