July 23, 2021

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Cooking The Laughs in Matt Lubchansky's The Antifa Super-Soldier Cookbook

 


Matt Lubansky’s The Antifa Super-Soldier Cookbook riffs on the current political climate that we’ve found ourselves trapped in for far too long now. Through their humor, Lubchansky reminds us that while there was political change this past January, a lot more work still needs to be done as what once seemed to be a civil matter of different opinions has turned into a fundamental right that exists in our society. This book doesn’t focus on particular people or events but finds the spirit of the times to focus on. They paint both the Antifa-left and the law-and-order right as two extremes, creating an image of how the two sides of our political spectrum see the other. Lubchansky explores these opposing visions through Agent Max Marx and Officer O’Shea, the two super-soldiers of the left and the right.

Marx, the bespectacled hoodie-wearing protester takes his order from a cabal of left-wing radicals, the best being Plucky who looks a lot like the life-sized muppet mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers. If there was ever an agent bent on destroying the American life that we know, it’s Philadelphia’s Gritty. Just look at him. But on the other side with Officer O’Shea, Lubchansky shows a militarized police force, one that looks all too scarily familiar, particularly after the summer of 2020. These images of heavily armed cops in riot gear are now burned into our cultural consciousness. If Marx ends up looking like something out of a sci-fi action film, O’Shea resembles a figure in a war movie, armed to the teeth to deal with the rabble-rousers and insurrectionists.


Lubchansky’s story takes a look at the way that the police force has become increasingly armed over the years while also parodying the idea of an organized Antifa movement. If you miss the subtlety, it could look like Lubchansky isn’t pulling any punches toward either side. It almost feels like someone more moderate and in the middle poking fun at both sides. Looking at their comics at The Nib, it should be obvious which way Lubchansky leans politically even though they have a much broader view of what’s happening than just left versus right. But then again, one of Lubchansky’s go-to moves is depicting the world since 2016 as a Mad Max-like wasteland so there’s that.

But this book almost feels a bit too (I hate to say this) fair and balanced. It’s not necessarily clear from the book’s viewpoint what side it’s on or even if it’s on a side. Its jokes are even-handed and feel almost like it’s evenly having fun with both sides of its targets. The book is a farce and the characters are caricatures but Lubchansky gets a bit too clever with the way that he depicts the liberals in this book, almost hiding that this is how the right imagines and sees their opponents. The left is Antifa militants, hellbent on tearing down the foundations of society while the right is power-hungry cops, protecting the institutions at the expense of the individual. Both sides look far more organized and unified than they actually are. A text page at the end of the book makes it very clear that Lubchansky is writing about the ways that the police force has turned into another arm of the military to be used against the people it has sworn to serve and protect.

The images of both sides are pulled from talking head media personalities, Facebook conspiratorial posts, and every offensive thing your extreme relatives say at the dinner table. Lubchansky is aware of the perceptions and the truth of all the sides, pulling their humor out of the ways that we villainize the others. On one hand, they’re optimistic enough to believe that their side isn’t what the extreme conservatives think it is while recognizing how the other side is probably even a more serious threat than what their book shows. The humorous laughter that you may experience at the beginning of this book turns into a sad chuckle as you realize just how divided and torn apart the society shown in Lubchansky’s book reflects just how broken we are.


Lubchanskhy’s art is born out of comic strips and editorial cartoons. With a simple style, they convey story and character but there’s not a lot of room in it for anything else. In their shorter Nib cartoons, that style works because it’s all set up and punch line. While The Antifa Super-Soldier Cookbook is longer than their Nib work, Lubchansky’s style transitions easily into this relatively brief comic as they continue to build up the joke over the length. There isn’t quite the punchline approach in their Nib strips as Lubchansky uses the space of this book to expand the scope of their exploration of the issues that they are trying to tackle. Lubchansky is using the room for more humor that both hides and emphasizes the all-too-real issues that are facing us in this comic.

As they create this farce where the liberal left and the conservative right continue to escalate the culture wars, Lubchansky plays offense and defense at the same time, trying to show how ridiculous the idea of an organized Antifa organization is while using a bit of humor to show the increasing militarization of the police. But their book plays both sides with a wink and a nod, trusting that you get where Lubchansky is coming from before finally telling you just what their real concerns are.


The Antifa Super-Soldier Cookbook
Written and drawn by Matt Lubchansky
Published by Silver Sprocket