THE BEEF #1 / Writers: Richard Starkings and Tyler Shainline / Artist: Shaky Kane / Design: John Roshell / Amigo: Francisco Bustamante / Publisher: Image Comics / February 28, 2018
Well…this is a weird one. The Beef seems to actively revel in its strange concept. This is essentially the origin story of a Hulk-like monster created by “excitotoxins” as opposed to gamma radiation. This allows for a look into the world of mass cattle farming, slaughtering, and processing. It holds nothing back in presenting that.
The Beef uses the “then and now” approach in its storytelling to great effect. It shows main protagonist Chuck’s childhood torment by G-Row and K-Bob and explains the long-term effects of ingesting processed beef. It also shows the effects of a lifetime of slaughtering cattle on him as an adult. The transitions between then and now carry across dialogue that segues forward and backward seamlessly from scene to scene. The visual style, while unrefined, fits with this tale’s bizarre nature.
Where this book is at its weakest is in the presentation of its main antagonists, the aforementioned G-Row and K-Bob. The Beef addresses their sexist and homophobic comments directly, but the dialogue feels somewhat forced to the point of them being caricatures, rather than being fleshed out as unlikable, but believable, jerks. Characters that are intended to be hated shouldn’t have their language neutered in an attempt to avoid offending readers. By their very nature they should be offensive, but Starkings and Shainline need to strike a balance to make G-Row and K-Bob feel real, not cartoonish like these characters feel.
The most interesting aspect of this book is its treatment of Chuck’s job and diet. The Beef breaks down some of the technical aspects of slaughtering animals for processing and shares the chemical effects meat has on a neurological level. This book will most catch the attention of readers who take a hard look at the American diet, with the excitotoxins being the catalyst for Chuck’s transformation into The Beef (christ I hope they don’t actually call him that) at the end of the issue.
All in all, this book is intriguing for a first issue, but it’s not certainly not for everyone.
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5. Would eat delicious, deadly excitotoxins again.
Dexter Buschetelli thinks he is really clever, but you know better; don’t you? Do you? I dunno, I’m not your mom. Dexter can be found here on DYECB writing reviews and opinion pieces as well as on the website for his podcast, Let’s Get Drunk and Talk Comics.