Writers: Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose
Artists: Langdon Foss & Jose Villarrubia
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka – Optimous Douche Ain’t It Cool News)
On Sale June 27
Let me be emphatically clear here, you must be a pure foodie to “truly” get GET JIRO. When I say foodie, I’m not referring to the unwashed masses who love to stuff their pie holes with chicken wings and Big Macs. You people are not foodies, you’re merely selfish gluttons who will become a problem for tax payers as you eat yourself towards immobility.
A foodie relishes the purity of the eating experience, a foodie takes hours to eat not minutes, and a foodie treats a meal like great sex. Foodies know that preparation is the foreplay and eating the meal should be a slow deliberate process that engorges all of the senses of sight, smell, taste (obviously), and texture on the tongue.
I’m a foodie bystander, Mrs. Douche though, a foodie to the extreme. Each night she literally takes 3 hours to craft our meals from all corners of the world (we’re on a heavy Israeli kick right now). Part of this appreciation comes from watching GET JIRO co-author, Anthony Bourdain, on his show No Reservations. Most food shows make me want to kill myself or the people on screen, I’m looking at you and your Dolly Parton hair-don’t Paula Deen. But Bourdain is something special: like yours truly, he’s a lanky mother-fucker from Jersey that spitfire’s sarcasm with an ease that transcends to art. While Mrs. Douche enjoys the food, I laugh with hilarity as Bourdain goes to exotic ports of call where the local see Bourdain’s sarcastic comments as sincerity because they just don’t get the concept; these are places like China, Iceland, the Mediterranean and the American Mid-West. But for all of his quips he also has a sincere love of food, which he articulates in poetic prose that makes the writer in me squeal with delight.
Bourdain is hilarious, and his dry, dark, cynicism permeates every page of this tale where foodie culture is stretched to delicious hyperbole. I’ve reviewed a ton of these books “by” celebrities in my five years of comic reviewing and I can’t think of one where I felt any involvement from the celebrity other than slapping their name on the book. GET JIRO is a true collaborative effort from a man that loves food and an accomplished team of comic experts. Honestly, I would expect no less from Vertigo.
The setting is future Los Angeles, where the city has been split into a very Berlin cordoning off of the haves and have-nots complete with Check Point Charlies to ensure the two classes never mingle. For example, buses that traverse between the two zones will not make stops in the elite inner circle for fear of the riff raff tainting their perfect culture. In this imagined future, food, not drugs, serve to give people their pumped up kicks. And of course where there’s a vice, there’s a kingpin of that vice or gangsta as all the kids say…12 years ago.
In the world of GET JIRO there are two lords of the kitchen. First up is Bob, an embodiment of the Emeril Lagasse’s corporatization of food combined with Don Corleone tactics to keep that coveted place. Bob is an ecological disaster waiting to happen as he flies in food from anywhere and everywhere with little concern for things like the extinction of the food he is preparing. On the other side of the fence is the aptly named Rose, who embodies the Whole Foods local organic approach to ingredient procurement. But don’t let Rose’s hippy ways fool you. Any zealot, even a hippy, can be dangerous when their ideals supersede their basic love of humanity.
In the middle of this war is our eponymous hero JIRO (I feel a limerick coming on). JIRO lives in the other section of the city, the outer ring, basically the Wild West of food and also where people go for their cheap fix. Except JIRO is no mere smack pusher. When we meet this sushi chef extraordinaire we begin to truly see the Bourdain influence in the book. When a customer walks into JIRO’s sushi bar and orders a California Roll, JIRO slices his head clean off. This is the ultimate in foodie humor, ordering a California Roll at a sushi bar is an insult to the chef on par with ass banging his mother while pouring sugar in his gas tank.
JIRO also serves as the catalyst for food lessons, like plate and food color balance, the right tools for the right job (i.e. cutlery) and a shit ton of recipes are hidden amongst the various dialogue bubbles if you’re smart enough to glean them. Now of course the cutlery is used for more than cooking, like the aforementioned decapitation, as JIRO becomes the focal point of obsession for the two gang lords. They want JIRO on their team and they will get him at any cost.
Beyond the cooking, GET JIRO also gets what comic folks like. I attribute all of the high action, swift panel movement and tight dialog to Rose (the other co-author, not the character). Plus, the art in GET JIRO is simply exquisite. Those of you reared in the 70’s will immediately recognize the line work of Foss from HEAVY METAL magazine. I imagine Bourdain had a heavy hand in this selection given the music choices he picks for No Reservations. Regardless, it’s a wonderful choice. Foss makes cooking as equally action packed as all of the blood baths when the gang rivalry truly starts to fire up.
I’ll admit, I chuckled when GET JIRO hit my doorstep. Even with the Bourdain seal of approval I was dreading this reading experience. The plot felt contrived and way too high concept on first inspection. But GET JIRO really works. Again, foodies will get the most out of this title, but that’s not to say that every traditional comic element isn’t set to the highest standards.
If you love food and comics, getting GET JIRO is a no-brainer. If you just love comics and have a low willing suspension of disbelief, watch a few episodes of Bourdain, gain an appreciation for how intricate true food preparation truly is, and then get GET JIRO.