Announced back in the Image Expo in January, and to be released June 10th, Image is throwing out a brand new comic series from creative team of Brian Wood and Danijel Zezelj called Starve. Is it good?
Starve #1 (Image Comics)
Sometime in the distant future, after the world went to crap due to a combination of global warming and the rich getting WAY too rich, there’s this former celebrity chef by the name of Gavin Cruiskank who left society to live in a small, desolate, out of the way place. However, the old TV network he worked for wants him to come back and do eight episodes of his old show, Starve, since he is still under contract. Then things just sort of happen from there as he sees just how ugly things have become.
To be perfectly honest, the first issue of Starve feels rather underwhelming. It has too many problems and lackluster aspects to it that hurt it unfortunately. The first issue here is pretty much all entirely setup. It establishes the character of Gavin, what the world is like, and what the focus of the story will be about, partially. I say partially because the comic feels like it ends before we really dive into anything. Premise-wise, I don’t see this being that bad for a series (I do an enjoy series about cooking and food after all), but the execution and how long it took for things to get going didn’t really hook me.
Now, a first issue being primarily setup and establishing the world and characters isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The writer is basically setting the foundation for the rest of the series to build off of after all. However, the setup feels very clunky and engages in a lot of tell instead of show. The clunkiness is in how the setup is delivered to us, mostly through narration or the characters talking. Facts and information feel very forced and unnatural as the characters explain things, like with Gavin’s opening monologue and narration about his life. The world building is a prime example of tell instead of show. The comic and characters love talking about how much of a disparity there is between the poor and rich, but we never really see it outside of a glimpse of a long line at an airport. They say things are terrible and that even some cities are underwater now, but we never see that ourselves or even get the feeling that things are all that bad. It’s hard to feel this disparity going on honestly, especially when the artwork depicts everything being so gritty and grimy looking (which I’ll get to later). Compare and contrast this issue with the first issue of Suiciders, where you really do get the feeling of how bad things are and how much the world has changed.
Moving onto the characters, only one person really gets any focus in the book (everyone else gets very basic personality traits to start with) and that’s Gavin himself. He comes across as a sort of jaded individual, who used to be at the top but has fallen to the bottom. However, just as soon as he has really becomes comfortable with that and where he is living, he’s pulled back into the TV business for one last season which he can’t even enjoy due to the unscrupulous behavior in it and how he can’t get anything from it. Throughout the comic, even if the backstory is delivered poorly, you can really feel for this character as he is yanked around by many people and is forced to deal with a TV environment that has become far uglier than it used to be. The only negative thing I can say towards him is that he seems to almost accept things a bit too easily at points when before he was almost the opposite. Still, the main character here is the strongest thing the comic has going for itself.
Brain Wood’s writing, however, leaves a bit to be desired. The first thing to note is the aspect of the comic satirizing cooking shows or just having satire and or commentary on different elements in general. There’s none of that in the actual first issue; anything that feels remotely like commentary is not that compelling (the wealth gap has gotten so bad that poor people all over the world eat dogs now!). I’m sure we’ll see more of that satire as time goes on, but don’t expect much in the first issue. The dialogue is fine in the sense that there’s nothing wrong with it at all, but it’s not particularly noteworthy. The pacing and the story structure are a tad off and even awkward at times. The comic does rush in areas as it tries jumping forward to the next plot point and the story has a few awful transitions between scenes. For instance, at one point the comic has a one-page flashback out of nowhere that is awkwardly placed in the book, with no indication there was a flashback (Not helped by the fact that artwork sort of muddles together over time). All of these things do hurt the experience.
Lastly, we should note the artwork by Danijel Zezelj. Given the type of story Wood is creating here with how grimy and ugly it is, Zezelj’s artwork does feel appropriate and tonally correct for this comic. However, his artwork leaves quite a bit to be desired in areas as well. Body proportions look off at times, facial expressions are not particularly that good and look off, and the heavy and thick inking makes thing muddled looking at points (in one scene, I couldn’t even tell there were people in the background until I reread it). Probably not helping is Dave Stewart’s coloring, which is so murky and muddy that it makes the book look so visually unappealing and unpleasant (which is sad, since I usually like Stewart’s coloring). Everything looks so ugly and muddy, no matter what the area (from the poor slums Gavin was living in to the high class party at the end). That makes this whole inequality between the wealth and poor theme not as believable as it should be when it looks like everyone is seemingly living in the same conditions.
Is It Good?
Starve #1 is a pretty disappointing experience. While the main character and the premise show promise, the setup going on here and the execution are not handled too well while the writing and artwork leave a lot to be desired. I’m all for a good cooking series, even one that wants to be as serious and gritty as this, but this first outing did not really sell me on this comic at all. As such, I can’t recommend the comic at this current point.
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