Review - The Beef #1 (@imagecomics)

"Not the burgers!"

A diet consisting entirely of hamburgers, french fries and soda isn't really one that someone should strive to maintain. There are still plenty of people in the world (America specifically) who don't mind the excess, consequences be damned. In The Beef #1 from Image Comics, that diet could turn into something else entirely. The issue is written by Richard Starkings and Tyler Shainline, illustrated by Shaky Kane and lettered by Starkings.

Chuck is a mild-mannered meat factory worker who is a little in love with a strawberry picker named Mary Lynn. But everything changes when Mary Lynn falls victim to the Vodino Brothers….

There's a tinge of realism in The Beef #1 thanks to Starkings and Shainline making the story feel very real and very realistic. The issue is channeled through the eyes of Chuck in the past and present, as Starkings and Shainline emphasize his plight as a factory worker in a labor-intensive (and gory) industry. The way the writers jump back and forth in time is very effective in that it sets the stage for the events of the series going forward. And the pacing is phenomenal as Starkings and Shainline pepper in the description of slaughtering cattle for meat as a was of keeping a steady tempo throughout the book. The end of the issue is somewhat jarring, but Starkings and Shainline do their best to gradually build up to something similar so that it's not completely out of left-field. And there's plenty of social commentary throughout the issue as well, as Starkings and Shainline touch on everything from racism to classism.

Kane's artwork is the right kind of loose approach for a book that's a little off-kilter to begin with. His artwork is actually a bit more refined that previous works, maintaining a sort of order as set by the pacing of the narrative. There are some pretty emotional close-ups of cows in the issue that are extremely effective at making them a pivotal part of the story as well. The panels are laid out very formally as well, as Kane relies on that layout to keep things in order. The colors are bright in a way that evokes an older mentality; one seemingly steeped in a nostalgia for the way things were, even if that way would be considered antiquated by today's standards.

The Beef #1 is the start of a series that puts all the players out there. Chuck has lived his life as something of an oppressed worker of sorts, forced to deal with his lot in life working at the whim of someone richer than he is. The script by Starkings and Shainline convey this sentiment extraordinarily well. Kane's artwork brings with it a sense of the abstract that's befitting of the seeming pocket in time the issue is stuck in. The Beef #1 is a book that emphasizes the ugliness that comes with being in the beef business.

The Beef #1 is available now.