Review: Starve #1

There are quite a few reasons why I don’t read Brian Wood’s titles anymore. I’m not here to list those reasons, but I will give you the biggest one. I think he’s lost a step as a writer. Somewhere along the way doing work for hire jobs at Marvel and DC working on superhero titles, the writer of amazing works like Local and DMZ, just lost me. Part of it is that I feel he’s trying to capture the voice and the intensity of his earlier works; another part is that some of his ideas have become too well researched and ultimately lost the fictional voice that would make them interesting, in favor of a factual voice. The Massive was probably the biggest disappointment for me as I was riding this high of Wood’s books and the ride stopped suddenly and slammed me to the floor. I’ve tried his other titles since then, but the same experience seems to happen over and over. Rebels was a bit of a surprise, but again favored a more factual narration. It too is out this week, but the third issue in that series is where I’m leaving that book as the charm of the setting has finally worn off (as is the problem with most historical dramas).

Starve is an interesting beast. It has a lot of moving parts that play off of our current society. It’s set in the near future in which the global economy has crashed and true capitalism has taken a hold of the world. Everything is privatized, meaning everything can be bought or bi-passed for a price.

The story itself follows Gavin Cruikshank, a world-famous TV chef that left his life after the “Network” crashed with the economy. We find him living somewhere in Southeast Asia indulging in a life of drinking, drugs and basically a carefree lifestyle that no amount of money can buy. That comes crashing to a halt when a representative of the Network comes calling for him and drags him back to the States. Here is when we learn of the gap, neigh gorge separating the 1% from the 99%.

Starve-#1-1Cruikshank’s former TV show Starve (same as the title of the book) has become a reality cook-off show in which chefs compete with ingredients that are common among the poor and the challenge is to elevate the ingredients to a level in which the rich audience members would actually pay to eat it.

Hopefully I don’t have to spell out the social commentary there, but if I do it’s commenting on the rich and their wastefulness with money, but also with TV cooking shows that throw away food while others go hungry, all for the sake of entertainment. There's plenty more too, but that would be boring to list and I'm sure I may have missed one here or there.

The competition is actually more of the end of the issue as we work through Cruikshank’s life. He hasn’t been paid because he hasn’t finished his contract, but his show is #1 on TV. Though it’s a version of his show and not really the one he created. His ex-wife had him declared legally dead when he left and now he wants to see his daughter after he gets his show and money back. Oh and he’s gay.

I’m saying it like that because that’s how the narration slips it in. Cruikshank is just narrating about his former life and forcibly mentions that he’s gay. I say forcibly because Wood’s forces it in which is really strange because later on there’s a scene that mentions it and it works perfectly there. It was almost as if he felt it needed to be mentioned before that and really it didn’t or it could have been in a different spot altogether.

I didn’t mind the story. The narration is a bit over bearing and it’s a strange shift to see Cruikshank leave this life that he seems happy with just to head back to the States and see how miserable he can be just because his ego is given a boost. The world itself is very in line with Wood’s DMZ in which it’s not that far in the future and there’s plenty of parallels between the story’s reality and our own. I didn’t mind it. I didn’t fall in love with it, but I suspect that a lot of that had to do with the art.

Art is subjective. We should all hopefully know that if we’re enjoying this medium, but it’s worth stating before my next comment. I do not like Danijel Zezelj’s artwork in the least bit. I know that’s harsh, but I had to fight through every page to get to the end of this issue because of the art. It’s not welcoming to the eye, it’s hard to tell when a person begins and a table ends. The linework is too thick and never varies meaning that a person has the same thickness of lines as a light hanging overhead. Not even the coloring could save it.

That's a feat in and of itself to make me unimpressed with Dave Stewart’s coloring. The man is the best in the business and yet this is unrecognizable as his style. Everything ends up looking muddy with his typical color palette in play. The lighting doesn’t exist because there’s not enough detail in the art to make it exist without blowing out the page which results in flat, flat coloring. The really sad part is that I don’t know if any colorist can make Zezelj’s artwork look good and even worst yet if it was left in black & white it would be un-viewable due to the thick black lines going everywhere.

You can definitely have a different opinion on this, but for me the art was a struggle and even though after a while I got a little bit used to it. I never once enjoyed it or liked it. It was a slap in the face with each and every page turn.

This is one of those first issues that’s really more of a zero issue because it’s all set up. It’s like a TV pilot in that everything after this will be different because it no longer has to set up the world and the characters. They just get to play out in a hopefully natural way now, so in a way the next issue will be the true test of the series.

Because it is all set up and character introduction (and a lot of that is trying to be cute), and because the artwork is difficult to look at and actually detracts from the story; I only partially recommend this title. I would get it off of Image’s site so you can get the digital price rather than putting down nearly four bucks for the issue, but that’s me. It’s rare that I would say this because I think you should support the print first and foremost, but if I take that approach with this issue then it would be a pass. Use this info to decide for yourself. As for me, I’ll give the next issue a shot and go from there.

Score: 3/5

Starve #1 Writer: Brian Wood Artist: Danijel Zezelj Colorist: Dave Stewart Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 (P), $2.99 (D) Release Date: 6/10/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital