Anthony Bourdain is a pretty well known world-class chef, but I wasn't aware he was also the writer of crime novels. It's an interesting blend of careers. Two years ago he added comic book writer to his resume with Get Jiro!, an original 160-page graphic novel co-written with Joel Rose and art by Langdon Foss.
The book is set in a future Los Angeles where all forms of entertainment have collapsed, leaving food preparation as the one last surviving culture. Jiro is a strictly traditional sushi chef living outside the city walls whose culinary skills bring him to the attention of two powerful restaurant kingpins. Their attempts to curry favour with Jiro lead the restaurant community into an all-out gang war.
I do like the conceit of Get Jiro!, which is bonkers enough that it gives Bourdain and Rose plenty of room with which to develop a clever satire. The book is also soaked with references to various food preparations, techniques, recipes and ingredients - it's not so much that it gets in the way of the story, but it's great background detail and helps immerse the reader into this strange restaurant-obsessed world. The overall execution of the book, however, feels a little off.
I'm not sure what the problem is exactly. It's one of two things: either the writers have failed to fully develop an interesting plot based on their fictional setting, or there simply isn't an interesting plot here. I suspect it's the former: too often they resort to cliche and stereotype when a little bit of complexity would likely have made the difference. The book's also written in fairly large panels - 3-4 per page - and this means that the story is deceptively slight given its length.
None of this is the fault of artist Langdon Foss, who gives the book a slightly warped abstracted feel that seems more like an independent book than one from a major publisher (this is a DC Vertigo title). The book also boasts vivid colours courtesy of Foss and Dave Stewart.
This is an enjoyable enough graphic novel, but that's its biggest problem: it's only good enough. It has a strong high concept, and given a tighter script could have been an absolutely sensational read.
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