I was surprised to find that the series was over already. I’ve been a bit confused by Starve since it began, and this second storyline (by Brian Wood, Danijel Zezelj, and Dave Stewart) didn’t help. It was a good feeling of being off-balance, though, mimicking the way the lead character careened from one moment of self-destructive excitement to another.
Why I’m talking about this issue, the final one, though, is that it seemed to me more like a letter to the next generation than a story. The second arc has revolved around celebrity chef and degenerate Gavin Cruikshank finding redemption, motivated by his love for his now-adult daughter Angie. He and his ex-wife, who hated him to the extent of stabbing him, have reached a leery detente. He gave up a lot to her, in recognition of how he failed to be a partner and a parent, leaving the hard work to her.
Throughout this story, Gavin sounds off about what happened to the craft of cooking, only my brain keeps substituting “comics”. From issue #6:
Dina: What mattered to you all was chasing the money, getting your egos stroked, and “product”. Your… market share. Fighting each other over smaller and smaller chunks of the pie.
Gavin: Most of us were barely making a living cooking.
Dina: Who said you were owed a living?
I suppose it’s easy to translate this to any entertainment field. Gavin’s seeking redemption, a return to the purity of the craft, untainted by the corrupting money and his odd type of celebrity for being a “bad boy”. Yet re-entering the arena means risking falling prey to the seduction again.
In the issues between then and this one, Gavin brings other chefs to teach employees of a fried-chicken franchise to really cook, doing something different, outside the existing system. He later calls it a revolution, trying to bring good food to everyday people without worrying about making a huge profit. He’s also trying to get out of his corporate contract, to avoid the tendrils dealing with the fat-cat money men have entangled in his life. One can’t help wondering how much of writer Brian Wood is contained in Gavin.
Most importantly, he sacrifices himself to free his daughter, to enable her to succeed without him. And that brings us to this final issue, written half as a monologue, contrasting the party boy who ran away with the character now, recognizing how self-centered and egotistical he was then.
The most obvious example is also the most surprising. His daughter has the same quality, the raised finger to authority that allows her to stand up for herself without his help. That doesn’t stop the narrative voice from talking about child-raising advice, about when to push and when to get out of the way. I don’t know how old Wood’s children are, or even whether he has any or how many, but there’s a strong feeling here of working through what it means to be a parent in rapidly changing times.
I would really love to read authorial notes on this series. I know I haven’t talked about the art, but it’s the same consistent edgy approach, almost monochrome, used throughout the series. It’s beautifully suited to a dirty, rotten, near-future world just like ours. Starve volume 2, collecting issues #6-10, will be out in mid-August. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)