Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Danijel Zezelj
Colors: Dave Stewart
September 9, 2015
Image Comics $3.50
In the latest issue of Starve, Brian Wood, Danijel Zezelj, Dave Stewart, and company deliver yet another great story in this relatively-new ongoing saga. What’s great about this issue is that it does two new things.
First: Wood spends some time fleshing out Gavin Cruikshank’s ex-wife, Greer, making her a little more sympathetic. Where she has been featured primarily as the book’s main antagonist in previous issues, This issue, we get a little more of her side of the story and find out that she’s not necessarily an evil person. That’s not to say that she’s not out to get Gavin. She’s out to get him, but she has some understandable motivation. Mentioned in passing in previous issues, Greer’s vendetta against Gavin stems from his sexual preference, which led to their divorce and his running off to Southeast Asia. Wood does not reveal if Greer was aware of Gavin’s sexual preference before their marriage, but it is suggested that she did not, citing that he is charismatic, but also a “bastard,” implying that Gavin led her on. It is also suggested that she would not have married him had she known because she states that other men were interested in her. However, she chose Gavin over them. Greer’s story has all the tropes of a woman who was wooed into a phony marriage and then was quickly abandoned by her husband. These feelings are made all the worse by the fact that Gavin continues to win every challenge on the eponymous cooking show, and especially because he won the contest in the previous issue with the help of their daughter, Angie. So from Greer’s perspective, Gavin is a man who continues to wrong her over and over again. She’s not an evil bitch. Yeah, she’s a bitch, but she’s not evil. She’s angry and for good reason.
The idea that Greer deserves some sympathy is further suggested by the colors of the pages on which she appears. Colorist Dave Stewart renders each page and panel featuring Greer with various tones of gray. This implies that the roles of good guy and bad guy are not clear cut, or black and white, to stick with the topic of color, as we would think. In fact, gray is used throughout most of the issue, also bringing Cruikshank’s relationship with his daughter into question as well.
Angie is instrumental in helping him win the previous issue’s challenge. The implication at the end of that last challenge is that the estranged father and daughter are now well on their way to repairing their strained relationship. Angie’s story in this issue continues that idea, with Angie now seeing the two of them as some kind of team. Unfortunately, as the issue unfolds, whether or not that idea will continue comes into question. During this issue’s challenge, which I’ll go into in more detail later, Angie texts Gavin, asking if he’d like her help once again. But Gavin does not respond. His reason for doing so is a pretty good reason. The literal fight that he is in this issue is not her fight, and she could very likely get hurt. From Gavin’s point of view, he is protecting his daughter. The last words in the issue are in a dialogue box of Gavin’s thoughts with the simple phrase: “She understands.” Contrary to that, one of the final images of the issue is a beautiful portrait of Angie, silent cellphone in hand and pensive look on her face, as though she’s thinking that all the things her mother has said about her father over the years may be true. And once again, this picture has been rendered in shades of gray, implying that the duration of Gavin and Angie’s relationship is already under question. So in previous issues, in which Gavin Cruikshank is presented as the reluctant-yet-inarguable hero, now, there is some argument as to whether or not he is a hero at all.
One quick thing, staying on the topic of Angie, every picture of Angie that has appeared in the series so far, has been, arguably, some of the finest work to ever come from Danijel Zezelj. He gives her an almost angelic appearance, which stands out in stark contrast to the gaunt face of her father and the aged face of her mother. Clearly, Angie is meant to represent a beacon of some sort for Gavin in the dark, shadowy, cut-throat world through which he navigates on his way to reclaim his empire. But considering the heavy use of shadow in every other image in the series, it makes me wonder if there may be something dark on the horizon for Angie Cruikshank.
The second new thing that Wood has done in this issue is leave this issue’s cooking challenge unfinished. In the previous three issues, the challenges have essentially been done in one. Now, it’s a cliffhanger. It’s a good idea for two reasons. One, the first issue of Starve establishes that Gavin must film eight more episodes of the eponymous cooking show in order to fulfill a contract. Even though the contract is only one storyline running through this series, if Cruikshank finished one challenge every issue, then that storyline would end a little too quickly, leaving the rest of this ongoing series a custody battle. Plus, seeing the hero win each issue can kind of get boring, and Wood is too good a writer to allow one of his books to get boring. Two, leaving the challenge unfinished adds to the tension at the end of this issue. In the previous issues, Cruikshank wins every challenge with ease, which establishes a pattern in the series. The fact that this challenge goes into the next issue breaks this pattern, and by doing so, by not showing Gavin triumphant, it suggests that he may not win this one.
It stands to reason that Cruikshank may not win this one, since this challenge is much more violent than the previous ones, which include the skinned, decapitated carcass of a dog and a pig that Cruikshank and his daughter have to slaughter before they can prepare it. In this challenge, Cruikshank and the two chefs he drafts onto his team, drafting in the military sense mind you, must literally fight their way into a series of kitchens before they can begin cooking, and they do this over a period of twenty-four hours. With this challenge, Cruikshank’s age comes into question. While the fight in this issue is rather short, a little more than a page, a page and a half tops, the issue ends with twenty-three hours remaining and an ominous skull and crossbones, with knives replacing the bones, as the final image. It implies that someone may not make it through issue 5 unscathed, if at all. Of course, it’s unlikely that Wood will kill off his protagonist in the fifth issue of the series.
Overall, already a thrilling read, Starve has become that much more thrilling, and I anxiously await the next issue.