COMIC REVIEW | An "Open Bar" Invites Solid Slice-of-Life Dramedy
Life is filled with unpredictabilities. One moment, you can be the king of your surroundings; the next moment, you’re lying hung over covered in your own vomit and filled with great regrets. But sometimes life will give you something you not only needed, but also changes the fabric of your very essence. Open Bar, the 2015 graphic novel from Eduardo Medeiros (Funny Creek, Mondo Urbano), brings us a tale of such a change, one filled with great laughs and — as life always guarantees — unexpected tragedies.
Published for the first time in English, Open Bar follows the close friendship of Beardo and Lenny. After his deadbeat father passes away, Beardo inherits The Cave Pub, a bar that’s seen its better days. With the condition that Lenny be his partner and that he runs it for three years, Beardo sets out to put more care into The Cave Pub than his father placed care into his actual family. What follows is a tale filled with regret, forgiveness, and a secret booze formula.
Although Beardo is the heart of Open Bar, much of the story focuses on Lenny. Despite his good intentions, Lenny finds many ways to screw himself over. Whether it’s his on/off-again relationship with Amanda or holding a simple job, Lenny manages to find ways to ruin his own life. But it’s not his fault most of the time, as Amanda cheated on him on multiple occasions and low-tier jobs, well, suck these days. Fortunately, he has a friend in Beardo, who literally moves Lenny in with him without his full consent.
The move makes for a giant push of Lenny and Beardo’s reset button, one that rekindles their already-solid friendship and lights a bigger fire into their lives. At first, things are slow at The Cave Pub, as gentrification and industrialization ruined the once-quaint town. But a visit from Lenny’s childhood crush (and possible cherry-plucker) Mrs. Sanchez sets things into motion, in a way that’s too ridiculously funny to spoil here. Soon The Cave Pub is packed from wall-to-wall, as Lenny and Beardo find financial success in their endeavor.
It’s here when Open Bar starts to build a pathway towards redemption for Lenny. Amanda returns, looking more like a better person than the crappy ex that took advantage of Lenny. There’s even some repaving done on the friendship between Beardo and Lenny, who have a minor fallout over a grave mistake Beardo made years back. But for all of the garbage life threw at these two friends, it would appear that life is starting to make up for the awful things they went through.
All of it is captured with a down-to-earth style of storytelling. Even if it may dive into some Judd Apatow-like fantastical comedy shenanigans, Eduardo Medeiros finds a way to write these characters as if they’re real people. We all know a Lenny, a Beardo, and even an Amanda in our lives, and Medeiros finds ways to make these characters not just remnants of our own friends circle, but also elements of our own personality. We’ve all taken chances like Beardo; we’ve all been hurt and betrayed like Lenny; and yes, no matter what you may think, we’ve all been a piece of shit to those we care about like Amanda.
Open Bar also reminds readers not to take life for granted, as the good times can and will run out on us. Medeiros does this in a way that teaches us that tragedy befalls us when we least expect it. Throughout the narrative, we’re reminded that this tale is about five folks and “how the death of one of them changed everything”. There is quite a bit of death on display here — both comedic and tragic — but it’s not until the book’s final pages when you realize just who it’s talking about.
Although the ending will take many by surprise, Open Bar finds a way to make it feel like a fitting conclusion. With plenty of laughs, tears, and sweet alcohol, Medeiros weaves a beautiful tale about friendship and the bumps that form on the road of life. Even when it comes time for its last call, the taste Open Bar leaves will no doubt linger with you weeks after reading its final page.
Promotional consideration provided by Oni Press. In stores October 11!