Comic books are good for the soul and one that I’ve been binging on lately came straight from the boys at Comixbrew (a comic book and beer podcast that I can’t recommend enough) that hits all the buttons for both a comic nerd like me and all my beloved kitchen folk as well.
Written by Brian Wood, Starve is the semi-futuristic story of ex-celebrity chef and kitchen lifer Gavin Cruikshank, who after years of drinking his fortune away in Southeast Asia returns to the rotten big city to do battle with the TV Network monolith that he created.
Gav’s got to contend with his old pal Roman (a pastiche mash-up of everyone on Food Network… Mashtiche?) and his bitter ex-wife Greer who’ll do anything to keep him away from his estranged daughter Angie. Its equal parts soap opera, pulp revenge tale, dystopian satire and kitchen expose all coagulated into a darkly satisfying and completely engrossing piece of pop literature.
Wood has admitted to having no prior experience in the industry. This seems bananas considering how effectively he nailed the dialogue and unique ethos of kitchen life. Anyone who’s spent nights on the line will immediately feel like they belong in this world, kicking ass and talking smack with Gav and his freak pals.
It hits closer to home than Anthony Bourdain’s hyper-splashy Get Jiro series (another cook-centric bit of fun and totally worth a read) which is ironic considering how much of Uncle Tony was written into the character of Gavin.
The art by Danijel Zezelj and Dave Stewart matches the writing perfectly with a grim and spidery style; lots of thick slashing lines, gaunt faces and shadowy, industrial sprawl. Every character looks like a crack addict and every kitchen seems like a submarine. Even under the glaring spotlights of the comic’s titular TV show the characters become brooding, isolated in their own claustrophobic little worlds.
The food is likewise grotesque despite being exquisitely rendered, almost a concentrated effort to portray ingredients without the filters of the overly pornographic TV/Blogosphere. To Gav and his crew meat is meat… It’s what you can make of it that counts. Issue three features a brutal pig slaughter and disassembly as well as a heartwarming family lesson about cooking eggs. Both sit side by side like it’s no big deal. ‘Cause it aint.
Still, beyond the blood and dog meat, bright lights and shady deals, the heart and soul of this comic is the relationship between Gavin and his daughter. The egg scene and a hundred more like it keep this circus from becoming a complete downer and honestly, give me a whole ‘lotta hope for us lot who work in the shadows beyond the pass.
And that’s why I want my cook friends to pick this up. The comic nerds (respect!) have already collected it ‘cause of its writing pedigree and filed it away under “interesting, but genre” while I figure that every industry slogger like me could benefit from (and maybe get a little Kitchen Confidential-style kick) knowing that a character like Gavin Cruikshank is out there in the pop culture ephemera representing us all.
The first collected Trade (Issues 1-5) are available on Amazon and regular issues are still coming out every month… Like I said, it’s good for the soul.