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The Realist: Plug And Play h/c


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The Realist: Plug And Play h/c back

Asaf Hanuka

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Page 45 Review by Stephen

In which, following the success of THE REALIST and THE DIVINE, Asaf travels to receive awards in Japan.

There he experiences the tradition of bowing, business card presentation offered and received with both hands, the cleanliness of public toilets, and violence-free order even on the most crowded of pedestrian streets.

"I was wondering if all the cute characters were a reaction to the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I wish collective traumas were translated into something huggable in Israel."

He also learns why formal photographs avoid showing fingers and buggers that up completely, thereby experiencing another Japanese tradition, that of the lowest point a man can reach: public embarrassment.

But for all this travel you may have already noticed that Hanuka's thoughts rarely stray far from home and - given that his home is Tel Aviv in Israel - terrorism is at the forefront throughout, not just pervading his conscious but intruding physically into his life in the form of armed police, military manoeuvres and the sorts of threats which make you think twice: airborne missile strikes. At one point his family have to take refuge in an air raid shelter.

Typically during this atypical six-page instalment (the standard is a single-page splash or nine-panel grid), he manages to weave in a thread about "nothing", the nature of which is on his son's mind:

"What is nothing made of?"
"Well, it's made of... umm... It's made of nothing."
"So it's not really nothing, right?"
"What do you mean?" asks Asaf, struggling with a Rubik's Cube.
"It it's made of something, how can it be nothing?"

At which point his younger daughter, little more than a toddler, drops a TINTIN rocket on her toes.

Good old Dad does manage to come up with a wise and coherent answer eventually, but then his own dad calls to check that the family are okay following the explosion and flames we see through the window just a couple of blocks from their home, and the retaliatory strike we see through military-jet crosshairs on Gaza.

"It was nothing."

The very first page, 'Je Suis Charlie' shows the artist at work, fretting about his contribution to the wide-ranging acts of solidarity in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, and the enormous responsibility of getting his own response right. So many discarded failures lie crumpled on the floor below as he sweats over a new page, staring directly down the length of his pen... and down the barrel of a gun.

It's a phenomenal composition.

Elsewhere the gleaming floor of a Parisian airport reflects Hanuka's preoccupations but again, however bad we have it here with what to most of us are unfathomable atrocities, try living in Israel. In fact, try living in Israel during the kitchen-knife stabbing-Intifada if you look like Asaf. He strives to shave more often, for a start.

"I can spot suspicious looks when people notice me on the street. I can't blame them - if I'd seen myself I would probably be worried too.
"Everyone is afraid and everyone is a suspect. Arabs in particular, or those who look Middle-Eastern. Arab-Jews, like myself, and Arab-Muslims look exactly the same."

He sinks up to his nose into a sea of blood, casting his eyes anxiously around.

"Fear, paranoia, hysteria, an angry mob, and misidentification. That's all you need for someone innocent to be lynched in a central bus station in Israel these days.
"I'm a walking target, twice. As a Jew I'm a target for terrorists and as an Arab I'm a target for those who look for suspects to neutralise."

Identity is an issue that permeates both books (and the masks and peeled faces are back), Hanukah constantly considering himself "stuck in the vacuum between camps" as he explains in 'Costumes' on the subject of Jews from Kurdistan and Iraq. Then, of course, there's his marriage - mixed, between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi - which wouldn't have been allowed had they been Religious Zionists or Orthodox Jews.

I promise, however, that there is much mischief too, with titles like 'Emojinal' and 'The In-House Designer', the latter being a catalogue of clothing purchases from Paris, New York and home, sweet home, personalised / ruined by the creative endeavours of his daughter.

Along with the thrilling compositions, there's a glorious physicality to Hanukah's forms, both impressively displayed in 'Double Dad' as his son squelches him into a photocopier and gaily replicates him multiple times, the sheaves of flat paper falling to the lime-green floor. These reproduce the back of Asaf's shiny head and shoulders, but then his arms emerge, hands heaving against the paper as he pulls himself up and out into the three-dimensional world.

Shame about the copy that got crinkled in the blockage...

'Secrets From The Kitchen' offers an alternative recipe for pancakes that the one you might be used to, and is a far more relaxed culinary escapade than 'Chill' in which husband Hanukah is left to cope solo with the domestic routines including a fry-up when his wife's back gives out.

"Come eat! The food is ready. Where's the girl?"

Clue: "Hottt..."

And yes, just like last time, the family sits, skips and trips centre-stage with movement-cartooning worthy of the great Kyle Baker as the household ups sticks and drips its way to holiday heaven.

For more, including the origins of this series, please see our review of THE REALIST in which I talk about the ingenious ways in which the creator utilises the nine-panel grid, often making structural use either of the tiers or the columns in linking the various threads weaved into a single work of wonder.

I leave you instead with the end of an anecdote from boyhood during which, as an eight-year-old, the artist was chased on the way back from school by a wild horse, here a fearful black shadow. Running as fast as he could, he falls as the horse still catches up, and resigns himself to its hooves.

"But instead of trampling me, the horse skipped over me and continued to gallop wildly to someplace else.
"When I got home I told my mother everything. She said I should try and draw what happened. That it would help me relax.
"I began to draw, slowly feeling that paralysing fear transform into inspiration.
"Now, whenever disaster approaches, I pull out my markers and draw calmly. I know by now the chances are, it's on its way to someplace else."

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