In a dystopian world full of monsters and madmen it’s up to one man to set the world right – by kicking it in the face! From the sketchbook of one of the artists behind Bob’s Burgers – THIS IS AMERIKARATE!
Amerikarate #1 (Action Lab-Danger Zone)
Over the past several years, many different fictional worlds have attempted to expand their own parameters by creating their own little works of metafiction that their characters can interact with. Whether it be shows within shows like Itchy and Scratchy, incepted comic ideas like the Black Freighter or any of the brilliant commercials from the Interdimensional Cable episodes of Rick and Morty, the defining characteristics of these bits is that they always crank up the zaniness of their home universe to 11. Every so often one of these meta series grows so popular that it becomes it’s own thing, and often to mixed results. For every success (like Machete) there’s an embarrassing failure (like Machete Kills). Illustrated by Devin Roth, the character designer behind the amazing Bob’s Burgers, Amerikatrate seeks to be more of the former than the latter.
Set in a dystopic future America where karate has been outlawed, the series follows Sam Kickwell – a unique combination of 80’s-era Kurt Russell, 90’s-era Chuck Norris and Patrick Swayze from Roadhouse – as he fights to win back his country. Though this doesn’t technically stem from any previously established fictitious universe, it does feel like it could stand right alongside other in-show entertainment from the Bob’s Burgers universe like Hawk and Chick. Of course, you’d have a hard time getting a lot of this past Fox’s censors, as this is definitely an adult series.
Of course, with a book used to poke fun at the over-dramatic direct-to-video action movies you usually see on late night cable, you expect it to be funny – and for the most part writers Corey Kalman and Brockton McKinney manage to oblige. Most of the jokes around karate (oddly enough) are pretty great, such as the list of local beers (the seasonal “Kickbox Elsewhere Pumpkin Ale” is too sweet for some) and the sex scene (dude literally karate chops a woman’s shirt off). That being said, not all the jokes land (the flashdance throwback is sort of a tired gag at this point, even if the main character is literally chopping through a boombox).
Nowhere is this duality clearer than in the character of Sam’s overly enthusiastic quadruped brother Rick. Rick lost all of his limbs in a tragic karate accident, and the guilt Sam carries around about the situation is played for laughs. People with a dark sense of humor might chuckle at the line “My arm just got kicked off!,” but it’s harder to laugh when he’s killed (again for laughs) later in the issue. Admittedly “At least he died doing what he loved – DYING!” is pretty choice, but it’s still be too morose for most.
The art for the most part is stellar. You can definitely see the similarities to Bob’s Burgers throughout, though as previously established, everything is cranked up to 11. Sam’s bulge is as big as his knee and the angles frequently place Mr. Kickwell’s….uh…kickstand front and center. The actual fight scenes are occasionally unclear (if you can tell me what part of the bad guy’s body Sam is chopping on page 23, that would be lovely) but given the intense hyperbole with which the book paints its world, it’s to be expected.
Overall, the book is flawed but has potential. The humor is hit or miss and I’m not sure if the similarity to Bob’s Burgers art style will be enough to maintain goodwill throughout. So far, it’s a fun ride, but one has to hope they either get the story moving or find their comedic voice in the coming issues or the premise will wear thin.