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posted August 4, 2008
Last Gasp, softcover, 160 pages, September 2008, $9.95
0867197013 (ISBN10), 9780867197013 (ISBN13)
This one surprised me a bit. A crude but funny horror comedy set in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-assualted Tokyo, Yusaku Hanakuma's greatest virtue is his seeming total disregard for standard storytelling and pacing. I have never enjoyed a story that ended up completely deflated over its last 50 pages as much I liked this one. There's something that screams integrity about a story that stays this dumb and funny and almost heroically faineant when higher-energy payoffs would likely result in a much greater chance for an international audience. There's nothing quite like it in comics, with the possible exception of the bigger story arcs in Peter Bagge's work. I can imagine it not hitting with certain readers just by operating on a level of humor that many might not be be able to appreciate. For certain audiences, though, it may be pure gold. I would imagine it will hit better with fans of American humor comics willing to grant leeway to its rambling structure than it will work for fans of American horror comics asked to embrace a comedic routine or fifty.
As was the case with Lewis Trondheim's Lapinot graphic novels, Tokyo Zombie
features Hanakuma's everyman Hage and Afro as Mitsuo and Fujio, two factory workers that dream of martial arts success and get their best chance at reaching it only after the world ends. The hilarity is in the details, starting with another factory worker screaming "[You] think you're hot shit because you're bald," and quickly descending into primetime loopiness through a combination of humorous set pieces and throwaway lines that cut into any potential seriousness with refreshing lunacy, outsized but still recognizable reactions to horrible circumstance that underline the essential stupidity and selfishness of various actors. Hankuma's art is crude and evocative and funny in and of itself, something you might see from an artist angry that his well-rendered work didn't sell and so he's set out to create an entire comic for his own benefit while sitting in the garage high on rubber cement. I could have 200 more pages.