Review: Mike’s Place

MikesPlace-300RGBThere’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 Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem, Mike’s Place is a graphic novel spun out of their experience that you can see in the documentary Blues by the Beach. What was supposed to be a movie celebrating Israeli life, and the peace found between Israelis, Palestinians, folks of all different backgrounds, who come together in a bar, instead it captures tragedy, and perseverance.

Going into reading Mike’s Place, you know the tragedy that will befall everyone at some point in the book. The tense vibe flows off the pages and builds as you get closer and closer to the event. Rarely has the slow build to tragedy, and the rebirth that follows, been captured with such a compassionate and unflinching eye. That’s primarily because Baxter and Faudem were at the event, witnessing it first hand, and don’t hold back details or showing us what transpired. Still, knowing what’s to come, the actual terrorist act, and what follows is a gut punch that can’t help cause you to tear up.

The graphic novel grips and effects you at a personal level. Part of that is due to the fact it’s both tragic and uplifting. The lead up, and post event accounting of what happened shows strength in tragedy, it’s a mesmerizing, and in ways uplifting, story. The attitudes displayed throughout the ordinary people show you some of the best of humanity, through all of their personal, relatable, flaws. It also shows the raw reality of Israeli life, some of which we don’t see here in the United States.

Baxter and Faudem are helped on art by Koren Shadmi whose style feels right for the region the story takes place. It’s a worldly style that’s not too detailed, but detailed enough to suck you into the Israeli world.

Beautifully haunting, Mike’s Place is a graphic novel that sticks with you for days and weeks. It’s absolutely Eisner material, and expect it to be nominated for numerous awards come time. One of the best graphic novels of the year so far.

Story: Jack Baxter, Joshua Faudem Art: Koren Shadmi
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

First Second provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review