Not to get way off topic IMMEDIATELY at the lede of a comic review, but I wonder how The Beef would read as a trade, completely collected. As standalone issues thus far, the stories are interesting, enjoyable, and somewhat self-contained, but I’m waiting to find an overarching theme or connective tissue.
The Beef #1 was a Cronenbergian version of Middle America, a set up of sad people in a sad town, stuck in their cyclical lives.
This issue, however, jumps off that diving board and attempts to dive into some serious issues, but doesn’t dig too deep.
Weighty subjects touched upon include the troublesome nature (reliance?) of the meat industry, how differently immigration can treat people (white vs. POC), state-sanctioned police violence, and perhaps the biggest villain of them all, capitalism.
I’ve sympathy for the writer/plotter—there’s only so much you can cover in 30 or so pages and this issue handles these topics well, but it is somewhat of a stark contrast in tone compared to the first issue.
Read together, whether in single issues (support your local shop! RIP MELTDOWN and so many others) or trade, maybe it’ll read less tonally jarring. However, as a Mexican-American, the effort is sincerely appreciated!
ANYWHO. Issue 2 picks off with Chuck transforming into a marbled-meat monstrosity, his appearance akin to Hulk in stature, his design looking as if the Venom symbiote fused with a steak.
Our hero saves Mary-Lynn from G-Row and K-Bob while punching the latter’s car, sending it flying before landing upside down, leaving the duo incredulous as to what occurred.
Mary-Lynn, drenched in blood, seems less freaked out by this hulking flank-steak Frankenstein than G-Row and K-Bob, but no one is as distressed as Chuck himself. Upon seeing his reflection, he flees, reverting back to his less-meaty form and proceeds to pass out with little memory of what occurred.
We’re then given a brief but beautiful sequence detailing Mary-Lynn’s disillusionment with The American Dream™, a sequence I wish had been given more room to breathe. We’re given the How and Why of Mary-Lynn’s journey to this town while the sequence, delivered in Spanish for one page, shows the dire situations we put ourselves in for a better life and the ones we love.
“Free trade only helped the Mexican government, not the Mexican farmer,” reads the last panel of this sequence, chastising the institutions of government and capitalism, and the thoughtless hurt they breed.
I commend the creators for attempting to tackle these issues in a thoughtful manner, even if it’s sandwiched into a book about a beef man. It takes a lot of introspection and confidence to raise these issues in comics.
As for art, Shaky Kane is knocking absolutely everything out of the park, as usual. His beautiful-ugly people continue to dazzle and his character design for BEEF CHUCK– a brawny, imposing, toothless man turned inside out — is something that’ll stick in readers’ heads for quite some time.
We’re set up with a Terminator 2-esque tease at the end with a pinch of social commentary. That’s when this story, I assume, may go full summer blockbuster.
I’m intrigued to see how the creators of this book handle that tonal change as well, and you should be, too.
I like to read around to see what people think of a comic, and noticed that some people online are complaining about the Spanish sections??????
To quote the great Junot Diaz:
Motherfuckers will read a book that’s one-third Elvish, but put two sentences in Spanish and they [white people] think we’re taking over.
The Beef #2
Richard Starkings — plot/script/letters
Tyler Shainline — plot/script
Shaky Kane — art/colors
John Roshell — design
Francisco Bustamante — amigo