The Pull List: Starve Introduces a Reality Television Dystopia

Welcome to The Pull List, a weekly column where we check out a first issue of a new series and tell you whether or not to follow the comic based only on that. This week, I’ve decided to check out Starve, and was not disappointed with the bizarre, reality television dystopia that the first issue introduced.

In Starve, we’re introduced to Gavin Cruikshank, a man who gave up everything he had and moved to China, where he now resides happily. Unfortunately, that ideal life is interrupted when “The Network” drags him back to the states to complete eight more episodes of a television show that he created several years earlier.

See, Gavin is a professional chef, who had an Anthony Bourdain-type travelogue show. Now, though, the world has changed. Global warming, natural disasters, and an ever-increasing disparity between the poor and the rich, mean that the show he created, Starve, now takes on a very different format than what it once was.

In order to get the money that The Network owes him, and reconnect with his estranged adult daughter along the way, he’ll need to compete in a gruesome cooking reality series. Gruesome as in, the first episode requires that he make a meal for rich customers using dog meat. But just because he has to compete doesn’t mean he has to play by the rules.

As someone who, admittedly, enjoys these kinds of cooking competition shows from time to time, the sense of dystopia that infuses the show within the comic is amazing. Starve is just similar enough to feel real, but just different enough to feel unsettling. The whole comic is like this, really, presenting an image of the future that feels actually very believable. Is everything ruined? More or less, but that doesn’t mean that everything is hopeless, and it doesn’t mean that everyone has given.

Just like real people, the characters that occupy Starve continue to live their lives in the face of ridiculous oppression and societal decline. It’s much easier to write a story with a society that has completely crumbled, than it is to write one that is hanging by a thread, but a very strong thread, and writer Brian Wood manages to strike the perfect balance.

The biggest complaint I have with the book, though, is the art. Danijel Zezelj and Dave Stewart bring a certain grittiness to the art that conveys the sense of a pre-apocalyptic world, but unfortunately it’s a little too gritty at times. It gets a little muddled at times, in no small part due to the coloring work, and this is most noticeable when trying to tell some of the more minor characters apart, as they all sort of appear the same.

Overall, though, in a world riddled with post-apocalyptic comic series, Starve presents something entirely different that could still easily be classified into that category. It’s fresh and entertaining, and I’m damn interested to see where this is going. It may honestly be one of the best first issues I’ve read in a long time.

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