Written by: Asaf Hanuka
Art by: Asaf Hanuka
Publisher: Archaia Studios Press
The Realist is a collection of Israeli-born illustrator Asaf Hanuka’s autobiographical web comics that focus on a life growing up and having everything society tells us we want, only never telling us how difficult our own manifest destiny really is. Never have I read anything so brutally honest about the difficulties of parenthood and marriage once the honeymoon period ends and the dust settles. It can be a media cliché to present love as perfection personified—all roses and kisses under moonlight but sometimes, life just isn’t that clean cut and Asaf nails it beautifully. He does this through a mosaic of expertly crafted anecdotes and memories in which he both hits rock bottom, and flies amongst the stars—surrealism in its finest, Asaf has made something that will be identifiable to almost any parent that has struggled with the balance of love, security and pain, all in the name of family—tugging on the heartstrings and opening our eyes in the process.
As a father myself, I found that the subject matter resonated greatly with me. I could feel his pain and I thought back to those times when my insides were crumbling but my face wore a smile that I fought to keep; those times when you have no money, your kids are screaming, your spouse is angry with you and the life you have has taken a U-turn. Asaf’s cynical yet honest approach to the fragile fragments of life he’s chosen to document in The Realist feel all too familiar, but in a good way. Not all of The Realist is sad. There are the times when he is describing the holidays he and his wife have had and the joys of those simple moments shared with his son and you see those glimmers of hope and know that life isn’t all bad. Life is what you make of it and if you embrace that peace, you’ll suffer a lot less.
At many times whilst reading this work of pure art, the bizarre artistry took my breath away and the images on the pages were truly unique—truly original and on a completely different level to anything I have come across in my life. Portraying inanimate things as living beings (like the car with organs and blood in its bonnet) and actions materialising (like the moment where the many ‘likes’ clicked on Facebook explode from Asaf’s mouth) are truly stunning and oddly hypnotic. As for the writing, I loved its simplicity and flow. It was reminiscent of the likes of Charles Bukowski and E. E. Cummings; there is no pretentious rambling—no obnoxious metaphors or complex vocabulary, just honest, fundamental description of pain on a visceral level.
To call The Realist a masterpiece would be an understatement. Asaf Hanuka deserves every success with this deliciously melancholy account of being a parent and a husband, giving everything you have to your family, regardless of how it affects you as a person. This is by far the best thing I have read in a very long time and the imagery is going to be with me for the rest of my life. Thank you, Asaf.