I’m glad I went into The Beef blind. Honestly, I saw a cover and decided to review this thing. “Oh it’s like a spam can with a comic cover, that’s cool,” I thought. What could be done with the concept of BEEF? If Gerard Way and Co. can make wars over milk, why the hell not the part of the cow that produces the milk?
Bad ledes aside, The Beef #1 introduces us to Chuck (Ha! Beef wordplay!) Carter and the town of Mudsville, an amalgam of every small town in America. Family rivalries, adolescent grudges, and over-the-top bigotry help give Mudsville a personality, and not one readers will like very much.
This comic doesn’t pull it’s metaphorical punches when it comes to Mudsville’s detrimental qualities, namely the language used by the local town assholes, Khristos and Gaelan. Their words are ugly and designed to make your skin crawl, easy ammunition for readers to hate these ancillary characters that have tormented Chuck since childhood.
Like the clueless, doe-eyed cows Chuck kills for a living, Chuck himself is essentially a blank canvas, with not much going on with him until Mary-Lynn (potential romantic interest, I assume)–and us, the audience–require an escape from the cyclical hell Chuck’s life seems to be.
The writing is entertaining, providing us with a slow-burn tease of… something to come to our hero-to-be. The constant bullying, the disconnect Chuck has from killing the cows, and the pervasive, haunting reminder of excitotoxins (one of the great Wow, This Is Real and Not Made Up, Even With This Name names) pumping through Chuck’s body after years of eating overprocessed food lets us know a transformation will take place.
It’s not until the end of the issue that we have two transformations, one of character and one physically, but will that entice you to stick around for another issue? If you’re on the fence with a slow first issue, AT LEAST stick around to see the payoff of what a giant meat-man can do and, come on, THAT ART.
Shaky Kane’s art is perfectly suited for this book, his Allred-meets-Burns style giving the townsfolk of Mudsville a pop-y but…is ugly the right word? Average? Kane makes these people look downright NORMAL in a fascinating way. Whereas most comic characters look like living Greek statues, Beef’s inhabitants have unibrows, mullets, and lived-in creases and imperfections on the planes of their face.
Beef may be off to a bit of a slow start, but it deserves to marinade and develop its flavors before it truly gets tasty.
(A sincere apology to whoever reads this and most importantly, my family I assuredly brought shame to with bad beef puns/metaphors. Thank you.)
The Beef #1
Written by Richard Starkings and Tyler Shainline
Art and colors by Shaky Kane