Taking delusional right-wing thinking as its satirical starting point, Matt Lubchansky’s The Antifa Super-Soldier Cookbook poses the question “what if everything the right thought about the left was real?”, combining super-hero comic standards with irreverent socio-political commentary. As well as their cartoonist work Lubchansky is of course Associate Editor at The Nib, the site dedicated to publishing political and non-fiction comics. In turn, The Antifa Super-Soldier Cookbook is published by Silver Sprocket whose comics activism and eclectic indie output saw them nominated as Best Publisher in our annual Broken Frontier Awards in 2018.
In the pages of The Antifa Super-Soldier Cookbook “Antifa” is not a left-wing ideological movement but rather a structured super-villainous organisation dedicated to destroying the American way of life. Their intricate network of operatives is committed to cancelling statues, manipulating social media, tampering with vaccines to control the population, and forcing their insidious liberal agendas on the entertainment industry. Max Marx is the newest recruit to their cause to be admitted to their super-soldier program which augments the human body, making him a key agent with a variety of mechanised super-powers.
On the opposing side is newly promoted police officer O’Shea whose attempts to infiltrate Antifa have ended in failure. As Marx and O’Shea’s worlds converge, right-wing internet celebrity Adonis Asproulis’s media tour will be the catalyst for a confrontation that will see their conflict escalate to new levels of animosity…
The Antifa Super-Soldier Cookbook is not particularly sophisticated satire simply because it doesn’t need to be, so ludicrous is the right-wing rhetoric that sits at the heart of its premise. And it’s all the more amusing for it. Lines like “These loony lefties say he’s a slaveowner. Just because he was” may seem direct and obvious but they’re funny because they’re so rooted in the everyday beyond-parody dystopia we are living in. Similarly the pitch perfect excesses of dialogue like “People could begin to question our communist-Marxist-socialist-Maoist-Stalinist-Leninist authoritarian-radical-anarchist ideology” mirror the limited understanding of right-wing social media trolls with a deliciously knowing wink at the reader.
Lubchansky’s cartooning has an accessible clarity throughout, with its animated vibe capturing both the real world scenarios that act as its starting point and the slapstick fantasy violence it evolves into, as the situation gets ever more fantastic and outrageous. And while the ending may feel like it leaves much unresolved that seems entirely appropriate given what it is commentating on and reflecting. Of course work like this can always run the risk of trivialising the harsh realities of its subject matter while looking for the easy laughs. That’s a valid concern. But Lubchansky avoids that trap, with their afterword drawing out some very disturbing truths from the parodied events that precede it.
In the world that we live in I’m glad that bitingly witty books like this exist but I’d much rather live in one where they didn’t need to.
Matt Lubchansky (W/A) • Silver Sprocket, $14.99
Review by Andy Oliver