When I first heard about Starve I thought, “A comic about a celebrity chef? Really? How’s that going to work?” The answer is “wonderfully”. I should hWhen I first heard about Starve I thought, “A comic about a celebrity chef? Really? How’s that going to work?” The answer is “wonderfully”. I should have known, as Brian Wood has a proven track record of taking odd ideas and turning them into gold. Plus, Image has been putting out some of the best comics in recent memory, who was I to doubt them? What Wood, Zezelj, and Stewart have created is one of the most unlikely comics to ever grace my bookshelf.
Starve is the story of former celebrity chef Gavin Cruikshank, a man who’s been in self-imposed exile for many years, but is forced to come out of retirement to fulfill his contract with the network, and take his cooking show back from a former friend Roman Algiers. His show is almost unrecognizable to him as it has become an arena sport pitting chefs against one another for the pleasure of the filthy rich. It’s an uphill battle though, as not only does he have to contend with the network heads and Roman, but his bitter ex-wife and daughter he hasn’t seen in years. They want a war, and Gavin’s on the warpath.
In typical Wood fashion, the series isn’t as straightforward as the solicits would have you believe. The pages are full of social commentary yet grounded in personal struggle, a Wood staple since his college days and first published work Channel Zero in 1996. He wears his politics on his sleeve, but it never feels heavy handed. The backdrop of social inequality, modern schlock journalism, and reality TV gone wrong never feel crammed in, and elevate the series from mere comics to something greater. The pacing is quick where it needs to be, but there are plenty of slower moments of character development. Gavin’s daughter Angie is the heart of the series, reigning him in when he gets too antagonistic, and acting as a counter-balance to his greedy, spiteful ex.
Danijel Zezelj is the perfect artist to bring this story to life alongside Dave Stewart’s always masterful use of color. Zezelj’s lines have much of the same sensibilities of Wood’s own art, giving the pages an almost wheat-pasted, graffitied look that fits the tone of the story. Chef Cruikshank has a bit of an anarchistic bent to his character, and this is personified in the style of the book. The book begins with a highly claustrophobic style befitting Gavin’s surroundings, but opens up as the story develops. His panels are dense and full of highly detailed backgrounds giving this world a lived-in appearance, especially in its architecture.
Stewart is one of the best colorists around, with an uncanny ability to adapt his style to cater to whichever artist he happens to be working with. With Starve he utilizes a muted palette and a painterly style that counteracts and elevates Zezelj’s stark, jet-black linework. The production design work by Brennan Thome brings it all together beautifully, with a Wood-esque sensibility that pops. The logo is bold yet simple and definitely stands out on the shelf begging you to dig in.
Overall, Starve is a compelling, confrontational, and unique read full of three-dimensional characters, social commentary, and heartfelt human emotion elevating an interesting concept to the fascinating.
I don’t remember where I was or what I was doing when The Spartak Trigger landed in my lap… top. I was told that it was a spy-thriller novel with a saI don’t remember where I was or what I was doing when The Spartak Trigger landed in my lap… top. I was told that it was a spy-thriller novel with a sarcastic sense of humor, so being me, a guy who loves spy-thrillers and has a sarcastic sense of humor, I was intrigued. I don’t have much time for reading these days, due to being one of FanboyNation’s resident tastemakers, but I made time because it sounded interesting, and because I was sitting in an ophthalmologist’s waiting room for a good couple of hours while my mom had something magical done to her peepers.
It started out a bit slow, but even on the first page Bryce Allen’s wry humor was on full display. The main character, disgraced cop Shane Bishop, is kind of a jerk, but I was very easily able to find him likable anyway. The plot, told in the first person with a mystery narrator jumping in from time to time, centers on Bishop as he works as a set-up artist, taking down his client’s enemies by setting them up to take down themselves. After his latest botched job, and finding himself framed for murder and being blackmailed, Bishop heads to Russia to save the world… wide web.
For a first novel, Spartak Trigger definitely held my interest and left me wanting more. A sardonic, surreal, and satirical neo-noir, science fiction, spy thriller with a little to offend and entertain everybody. It is intelligent, intriguing, quirky, and never once takes itself seriously, making it one of the funnest books I’ve read in a long time. Allen has a unique voice with a fresh take on the genre, and I hope he never stops writing.
The protagonist is an amoral, sexist, cynical, sarcastic, coke-fueled assehole, but beneath the surface beats a heart of gold, well, copper at least. Bishop struggles to make himself seem the tough guy, because in his business he has to, but you can tell that it is all a lie he tells himself. Lines such as – “The peanuts are stale and I suddenly wish I’d picked a classier joint at which to ruin this assclown’s life.” – are mere chest-puffing for chest-puffing’s sake, and when we get to the moment he is reunited with the daughter he hasn’t seen in years we get to see the man beneath the facade. And the way he argues with the narrator takes a bit of getting used to, but is eminently interesting and entertaining.
One of my favorite things The Spartak Trigger has going on is that even as it nails each and every spy novel cliche and trope it brilliantly skewers them, using humor as self-commentary brilliantly. There are plenty of plot twist to keep you guessing, and the stakes get higher and higher as the book progresses, sort of. If you have the patience to get through the first 10-15 pages, to where the story really gets going, you will be rewarded with an exciting and hilarious kick in the brain that I am glad I made the time for. Bravo, Bryce E Allen. Bravo.