Starve: Darkly Unique & Evocative
“Starve is exceptional; in fact, readers will find that Brian Wood knows just how to poke us in our stomachs to make us feel something other than hunger.”
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Danijel Žeželj
Release Date: Starve #4 – September 9th
by Syd Williamson
Starve is the number one program in the country. A televised cooking program celebrating the decadence available to .1% of the population while the remaining 99.9% suffer in their poverty. Gavin Cruikshank owns it, or rather he did, before he dove headfirst into obscurity and inebriation. Now he must compete to win back his show, his money and his daughter. While Cruikshank staggered drunkenly around Southeast Asia, the planet slipped into a violent economic disparity. The poor are lucky if they can scour up a plate of meat at all, and the rich idly nibble on tuna. Cruikshank observes this new world with a dry wit that makes the content of the story all the more piercing, and the bold artwork lends intensity to the writing. Starve is exceptional; in fact, readers will find that Brian Wood knows just how to poke us in our stomachs to make us feel something other than hunger.
Using a cooking competition as a medium affords Wood plenty of opportunities to demonstrate the terrible excess of the upper class. In the first Issue, Gavin was challenged to cook a gourmet meal using dog, known colloquially as “the common meat.” In Issue 2, Gavin had to acquire a bluefin tuna for a competition, and he may as well have had to find liquid adamantium. Though the lower classes struggle to survive the rich have consumed delicacies to the point of extinction. This dystopia isn’t far-fetched when you consider that, right now, half of America’s wealth belongs to the richest 1% of the population. Right now, the price of natural whole foods is twice that of foods produced with genetically modified organisms. High income Americans can enjoy a healthy organic diet, and the remaining majority of the population is left hoping that GMOs don’t give their children extra appendages. In reality, the America that we see in Starve is just slight exaggeration of the one that actually exists.
While we’re on the subject of current events, it should be mentioned that Gavin Cruikshank is gay. Besides the fact that queer comic leads are just delightfully progressive and satisfying, it allows for some interesting points. Cruikshanks ex-wife, Greer, for instance, seeks revenge for having been married to him for such a long time before he came out. She wants to demolish him and steal away his money and ruin this relationship with his daughter, Angie. Greer’s wickedness is commendable; she even had him declared dead.
Angie, however, is as sweet as as his wife is vile. Everybody loves a good daddy-daughter relationship, and the Cruinkshanks are cloyingly sweet in the best way. Despite his absence during her childhood, Angie signs on to help Gavin win the show. Gavin’s love for the girl is broadcast on live television. It’s adorable. It’s gross. It makes you smile. Yuck. Wood’s palatable parent-child dynamic will make you want to call your Dad. All of this emotional range is punctuated by Wood use of Gavin’s smart narration. It’s shrewd and its sassy and its, at times, hilarious.
Let’s not forget to mention the richly adroit artwork of Danijel Zezelj; his unique style makes each page of a single issue a feast for the eyes. Zezelj has a knack for breaking up the page in a dynamic fashion, unifying images in a stylishly stark and symbolic manner. Each page also boasts Zezelj’s masterful command of composition. The style is almost like graffiti, but if graffiti was a fine art in which you could savagely cut into with a steak knife in all of it’s very raw, very rich succulence. His style stands out among his contemporaries.
Starve is definitely unusual; it’s visually dark and dynamic and the writing is loaded with thought-provoking social commentary. In a way, Gavin Cruikshank has this weird, Spider Jerusalem-esque of charm. The only criticism you might have for a project like Starve is that it might be so unique that it could alienate the average comic book reading adult. However, you may find yourself enthralled by the academic aspect of the story…or, at least, changed by its decadent richness.
This reviewer, who is generally a snarky, elitist comic book nerd, finds the title to be quite agreeable to her sophisticated palate. Starve is delicious. Consume! Consume! Starve #4 hits shelves September 9th!
(Editor’s note: Syd’s actually a vegan…but she’s got a taste for excellent comic books. Be sure to follow her on Twitter and Instagram.)