I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Mike's Place by Jack Baxter, Joshua Faudem
Illustrator: Koren Shadmi
Published by First Second on June 9th 2015
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Nonfiction, History, Middle East, Israel & Palestine
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There's a rule at Mike's Place: never, ever talk politics or religion. At this blues bar on the Tel Aviv beachfront, an international cast of characters mingles with the locals, and everyone is welcome to grab a beer and forget the conflict outside. At least, that's the story Jack and Joshua want to tell in their documentary.But less than a month after they begin filming, Mike's Place is the target of a deadly suicide bombing. Jack, Joshua, and the Mike's Place family survive the only way they know how-by keeping the camera rolling.Written by filmmakers Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem and illustrated by award-winning cartoonist Koren Shadmi, Mike's Place chronicles the true story of an infamous terrorist attack in painstaking detail. Rarely has the slow build to tragedy, and the rebirth that follows, been captured with such a compassionate and unflinching eye.
Mike’s Place is a non-fiction graphic novel about the April 30, 2003 bombing of “Mike’s Place”, a popular pub in Tel Aviv, Israel. I personally find Israel and the controversy surrounding it fascinating. I was serving in the Army National Guard while I was in college and was hoping to pursue a career in law enforcement after graduation so I wanted to learn as much about terrorism as I could. I took “understanding modern terrorism” and a literature and film class in which we watched Eytan Fox films like “Walk on Water” which captured my interest in Israel and more specifically, Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv was known to many as “The Bubble” (also the title of another Eytan Fox film) because it claimed to be isolated from the controversy surrounding Israel and is a socially progressive area for such a religiously exacting nation. So when I read “There’s a rule at Mike’s Place: never, ever talk politics or religion” on the inside cover of Mike’s Place, I knew that this graphic novel was one I would have to explore.
This graphic novel was basically a documentary about a documentary. If they created a documentary about the making of the graphic novel they would probably have to fight with the creators of “Inception” over copyright issues, and worry about getting stuck in limbo. That being said, this graphic novel was very good, not my absolute favorite but good. The novel starts by introducing Jack Baxter and how he got the idea for making a documentary about Mike’s Place after getting scooped on a different story that he was hoping to cover. Jack Baxter should sound familiar because he is one of the authors along with Joshua Faudem who is also in the novel because he was the cameraman/director of the documentary that this novel is documenting (try and stay with me). After Jack decides to make a documentary about everything that he finds good in the middle East, neatly packaged and presented as Mike’s Place, he introduces you to a myriad of employees and friends from all over the world. Jack paints a beautiful picture of Tel Aviv as a true melting pot of culture that flourishes on friendship, acceptance and love. While Jack introduces you to the wide array of friends the novel also introduces us to the terrorists while they plan their horrific act. The flashes to the terrorists made the title Something wicked this way comes pop into my head repeatedly because it really helped to build some suspense that would not have been felt otherwise. Since this is a non-fiction story I don’t think anyone needs me to say **spoiler alert** but eventually a suicide bombing does take place, and the aftermath is what I found most interesting. During my deployment I served in a “combat zone”. I use quotations because even though I was in a combat zone there was never any combat there. So I cannot speak from personal experience when it comes to coping with post combat stress. I can however tell you that I have had the honor of serving with countless heroes that did see combat and I have seen firsthand how they have dealt with the stress and it is very similar to what I see in Mike’s Place. Each employee (I’m trying not to say character because these are real people who are more than just characters) deals with the events in their own way, from anger, to alcohol and even humor. If you love sociology or are just a people watcher then you will really enjoy this graphic novel, if you are looking for a high octane thrill ride then maybe leave it on the shelf.
This is the first time I have seen any artwork by Korem Shadmi. Mike’s Place is illustrated in black and white, which I think is a very hard medium for artists to work in but I really felt that Korem Shadmi pulled it off. The art reminded me a lot of the Sunday morning funnies style artwork, which after looking on his website makes sense because he does work for the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. I would be willing to guess that he has done a political cartoon or two in his career and that was part of what appealed to him about Mike’s Place. The illustrations are bold and proportions are slightly disproportionate at times, giving them that comic strip feel. The panels are relatively simple, even in the aftermath of the bombing, which is nice because the images get the point across without overwhelming the reader. All in all the art was really well done and added greatly to the effectiveness of the novel.
Overall I think that Mike’s Place is definitely worth a read if you are at all interested in Middle Eastern culture, the Israeli controversy, or want to see how people can cope with traumatic events. I don’t think that this is the graphic novel for those looking for a light and adventurous story, which is perfectly okay because that is clearly not the target audience. I would recommend this novel for everyone to read, not because I think it is the most well written, best illustrated or most exciting but because in the world we live in today terrorist attacks are becoming more and more prevalent and its good for us to look at this as an example of how staying positive and driving forward is what wins the war on terror.