I've felt more than a little burnt out on comics of late: unread trade paperbacks and issues pile up around me like a hoarder's collection of dusty time magazines. And when I do crack my comics open, I find I have very little feeling about them positively or negatively. Some of the reasons for this are personal, I have a new job that's taking a lot of energy, but much of it comes down to a string of mediocre titles that I've had the misfortune of trying all in a row. It seems like many of the new series I have tried over the last year are predictable, laborious rambles down well-trodden clichés. However, on rare occasion, a book comes along that is so masterful, original, and engaging that it cuts to through my cynicism and lethargy and reminds me why I love comics in the first place. "Starve" is not that book. It's pretty okay though. That's not entirely a joke or a crack at Starve's expense. As I was rereading in preparation for this review, I enjoyed myself immensely, and then promptly forgot everything I'd read. Starve is a fun, disposable book that takes its social messages a little too seriously, yet entertains immensely. While this issue is not a particularly strong showcase for any of the book's elements, I still simply enjoy reading it, which is more than I can say for lots of higher profile books.
Issue eight finds Gavin Cruikshank (not a strong name) continues to work on his new idea for an ethically-sourced, neighborhood restaurant. This plotline is not in itself bad, seeing highbrow cooking mixed with fast food has a certain cathartic quality, but it's an odd deviation from The Hunger Games cooking show that was ostensibly the books central theme. Further, it’s a plotline that focuses on a number of new character who haven't had time to develop beyond a group of politically correct urban archetypes. As his new restaurant gets underway, Gavin seeks to escape his studio contracts, via a baseball bat and a boardroom meeting. But things are complicated when Gavin's daughter, teetering on the edge of her own cooking stardom, is caught in the middle.
Gavin's relationship with his daughter has been the emotional center of the story from issue one, and seeing his fury turn stunned confusion and sadness as his daughter has a live-TV breakdown is powerful stuff. One of the smarter turns Wood has taken in his second arc is to stop writing Gavin as a Spider-Jerusalem knockoff and start treating him as a fundamentally good person. Having repaired the broken relationships with his ex-wife and child, there are some decent emotional stakes in play for the first time in the series. I think it's fairly easy to see where the story will go from here (back on the titular game show for starters), but it's nice to have some momentum going there.
All that said, very little of substance actually happens in this issue. It feels like the first half of an issue with a slow buildup that never reaches the height it needs to before abruptly cutting off. The rapid shift in focus for the story feels inorganic as if Wood is shuffling the pieces of his story into a new pattern to get reading for the books finish, and there's not the strong focus on story that made the book a fun read earlier on. Danijel Zezelj (also not a strong name, but far more forgivably so) continues to make art that looks overtly like spray paint stencils. It's a style that fits the urban setting nicely, but is a more mixed bag in other ways. Gavin's design, all cheekbones and sharp lines, is strong and memorable, but many of the other characters have faces like ill-shapen blobs. Similarly, while some panels are richly detailed and evocative, others are composed of so little detail that they look simplistic and lazy. As a whole, much like the book itself, I like Zezelj's work, but would understand easily if other's didn't.
This whole review likely sounds a bit like damning with faint praise, and perhaps that's true. I can't say I'm exuberant singing the praises of Starve, but at the same time, it's surprisingly rare to find a book that you can just pick up and enjoy without feeling entwined in over dense plotting, or giant ongoing arcs. Starve is, likely against the creative team’s better wishes, more of a trifle than a main course, but it's well worth sampling nonetheless.
[button btn_url="" btn_color="pink" btn_size="large" btn_style="default" btn_outlined="no" link_target="blank" link_rel="" icon_left="" icon_right=""]Score: 3/5[/button]
Starve #8 Writer: Brian Wood Artist: Danijel Zezelj Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 4/13/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital