BIN SIFTIN’ with Rene LeClair: STARVE #1

Image Comics     Writer/ Brian Wood    Artist/ Danijel Zezelj

“I’m starving!” I declared. My buddy turns to me and says: “We live in Canada, man. You aren’t starving.” He was right. I bought a bag of chips.

Brian Wood has been impressing me over the past few years. It started with his series DMZ for DC/Vertigo back in 2005. It’s a story set in the near future Starve #1during the second American civil war. The island of Manhattan has become a demilitarized zone (DMZ), a buffer area caught in the middle of forces of the United States of America and secessionist Free States of America.

Wood has been a household name at all the big comic publishers for a while now. Star Wars, The Massive, Demo, Channel Zero and Conan The Barbarian to name a few, and these all for Dark Horse Comics alone. His Star Wars run was pretty awesome. Now that Marvel has taken the reins on the Star Wars franchise, his series will no longer be official cannon, but it’s still a good read set right after Episode 4: A New Hope. The Rebel Alliance is on the run looking for a new place to shack up. The Imperial Navy is constantly ahead of the game which leads to the belief there is a spy in their ranks. Leia assembles a stealth squadron of the best pilots, along with Luke on roster. Han Solo and Chewy are off on Alliance related business adventures. Following those two is always fun. Darth Vader, ever imposing, takes note of all the comings and goings of the gang and plots devious schemes for the Empire. There is some good fun to be had here if you’re a Star Wars fan and you don’t care about continuity.

DC, Image and Marvel have had a bit of Wood up in their universes for a while now because I used to read Generation X back in the late nineties and I never realized that Brian had co-written issues #63–70 with Warren Ellis (during the starve-5Ellis plotted Counter-X crossover), and then #71–75 himself. It wasn’t the best, nor the worst. It seemed like a departure and, ultimately, an ending on what started out as a neat “X-Team.”  I did quite enjoy his mini-series Wolverine & The X-Men: Alpha & Omega in recent years. Wolverine is messed with pretty hard by his student, omega level psionicist and eternal brat, Quentin Quire, AKA: Kid Omega.  How I love to hate Kid Omega. He makes you just want to punch him right in the face. He’s great.

Then with DC it’s been mostly two long runs on the Vertigo imprinted titles such titles as the above mentioned DMZ and Northlanders. If you like vikings and I’m sure you do, check out Northlanders for some historical fiction.

This brings us to one of his newest efforts: Starve #1 with Image Comics. I’m no connoisseur of fancy dishes, but I’ve had some good food over the years. Thai, Chinese, Italian, Indian, Greek, German, Lebanese and more; It’s all fantastic. I could really go for some Shawarma King right now. Oh! The garlic potatoes!

In the not so distant future, 55-year-old Gavin Cruikshank finds himself somewhere in South East Asia. He’s been there a few years and he’s settled deb5b95f4415f5fba7f491073b657b0cnicely into his perfect life of freedom from responsibility. Years ago, he was a famous and powerful celebrity chef on a little show called Starve. At its conception, “…it was a travelogue, a hip little show where [he] roamed the planet…” a la Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation, but when the economy collapsed, the network, his show and his salary was gone. So he bailed.

Sleeping all day, his nights are filled with alcohol, weed, food and betting on fights. Mentions of “Pok pok noodles, heavy garlic sauce [and] those weird little transparent onions they never told us about in culinary school” have me drooling. It seems like he’s having a good time, but that all comes to an end when a network lackey shows up with a “work order for eight more episodes of Starve” he owed, since they never closed out his contract.

Flying into Newark “because John F. Kennedy is under about twelve inches of water [due to] global warming”. Gavin realizes that he’s been out of the loop and not paying any attention to the state of the world he was living in. His handler informs him that he’s arranged to have Gavin skirt around immigration and customs upon landing. “Everything’s been privatized […] When everything’s for-profit, everything can be paid for. [Network’s] legal determined that the riders in [his] old contract should be extended to include this level of executive travel compensation.”

0baf2832918bdd945b1574eb398d154dBack in America, Gavin quickly finds out to what extent things have really changed. “All residuals, contingencies and royalties are only paid out upon successful completion of a season’s worth of Starve. Eight episodes and then you’ll be paid. Well, in theory.”

Greer, the frustrated, pissed off ex-wife he’d left behind has, in the meantime, had him legally declared dead and is lawyered up to receive all of his income. His career long “friend” and rival in the kitchens and in business, Roman Algiers,  was now the host of what had now become Starve while he was on “vacation.”

Starve was now the number one show on television. A competition for the “…privileged elite. In this new age where 99.9% of the world’s population is forced to get by on far, far less than before… the .1% celebrate their station in life with fantastical, irresponsible excess; At times criminal excess.”

The show comes off as a cook off in front of a studio audience and the chefs are to be put through the paces in front of wealthy spectators. Roman makes sure to let Gavin know that he’s out to get him. He starts off the show with a grand speech about how the world has fallen on hard times and “all of us” have been affected by unfortunate circumstances, but “a good chef knows all about elevating the mundane.”

A butchered carcass is wheeled out on a steel platter and it’s obvious that it’s a very-dead and skinned dog. Gavin had been warned by his handler about the 1d523d21afe268a48e9cab3ccf8275bb“disparity between the rich and the poor… The rich, feeling under siege in their towers and segregated blocks, have developed the perfect weapon to use against the poor, huddled masses surrounding them like a moat… dehumanization.”  This is what poor people eat all the time, isn’t it? “The common meat” right?

Not one to give up, Gavin cuts into the dog and slurps up a raw and bloody chunk. He’s expected to make this “palatable to a rich person’s stomach… [To] create a dish that anyone in the arena would be happy to pay good money for.” He’s not going to play the game their way. “This is [his] show. [He’s] going to do eight episodes and burn this whole place to the ground.”

This first issue is pretty good. His now seventeen year old daughter is being kept on the outskirts of his entourage by his ex, Greer, but her distant presence gives him inspiration. Gavin isn’t a very likable person. He’s full of himself, with good reason, but he’s a dick about it. His priorities are a little off since he lists them off as “my show, my money, my daughter. In that order.” He is also gay and out of the closet, which is cool, but not in his ex-wife’s eyes. She was 22 when they married and 40 when he came out so she’s quite bitter about that, saying: “When you can give me back my youth, then we can talk fairness. Until then, I’m going to bleed you as much as I possibly can.” This will obviously prove to be an extra hurdle in front of Gavin Cruikshank and I am looking forward to seeing next episode of Starve. – RENE

Starve #2 is out in stores now.

(Rene LeClair is an avid comic book reader and works at Comic Hunter in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, spreading the word to all who love comics as well.  He is also a fantastic musician who currently plays with a great band called FEAR AGENT.  Rene has been at his music for years, including stints with Longtimers, Four Frames, and the amazing Dead City Rebels.  At the Comic Hunter (Moncton/Charlottetown) they easily have the biggest selection in the Maritimes for all your nerdy needs. They specialize in comic books w/ over 250k back issues, an immense library of graphic novels as well as a seemingly endless selection of board/card games. Whether you find yourself that side of Quebec or not, they’ll ship anywhere. Visit their website and contact them here.)