In last week’s wrap-up I mentioned that I wasn’t sure what I could possibly write about this week, as I only saw two releases I was interested in, both of which belong to stories that I have not fully read. Thankfully for one of them, By Night, there was only one issue to catch up on, which I already owned. The only other series that jumped out was Gideon Falls, a series written by Jeff Lemire – a favorite author/illustrator of mine – of which I haven’t read a single issue.
Turns out I’m just blind because checking the new comic release list online yesterday revealed two comic issues I’ve actually been anticipating for a while now. First, there is Flavor #3, continuing the story of a world where all chefs are celebrities who live and compete among each other in a walled city. Then, totally unbeknownst to me, Royal City #12 hit shelves today. Royal City was one of the first weekly comics I picked up way before I began this whole mess, and it has become an absolute favorite of mine. How I somehow missed it in this week’s releases, I’ll never know, but I’m excited to jump back into that story.
In order, I will be discussing the following comics:
- By Night #2
- Flavor #3
- Royal City #12
By Night #2 Writing: John Allison, Illustration/Cover Art: Christine Larsen, Coloring: Sarah Stern, Lettering: Jim Campbell. Published by BOOM! Box (of BOOM! Studios)
If By Night #1 took a turn for the weird by introducing an inter-dimensional portal in an abandoned industrial building, By Night #2 took a turn for the Even Weirder (real creative, I know) by showing us a taste of what’s inside said portal. The twilight mushroom forest filled with enormous flora is an exciting change of pace and scenery compared to this story’s usual North Dakota setting. It’s behind this portal where Jane and Heather meet Gardt, a confused, stumpy, green goblin with horns and a – uhhh – skeleton living inside his clothing. This skeleton also talks. Guess what – Gardt is my new favorite character in the story so far. Upon meeting Gardt, there is a glorious set of panels wherein all three characters scream in fear at one another, and I keep going back to this page because of how much I enjoyed this moment. By Night is a story that doesn’t want to be heavy handed, and it’s moments like those that really cement it as the silly “20-somethings go on an interdimensional romp” story that it’s shaping to be.
Of course, you can’t have a cake made entirely from icing. There is a possible threat introduced in this issue, and the stakes are raised dramatically by the conclusion of By Night #2. Additionally, some of the softer tones and meanings of this arc are explored briefly in the reasoning behind Jane and Heather’s second return to the portal. In just a few pages, more of Jane and Heather’s post-college life at home is explored. When facing legitimate, otherworldly danger, both characters decide to risk death in pursuit of a more fulfilling life compared to their humdrum life with which they’ve settled. Apply this metaphor to whichever huge decision comes up in your life next, 20-somethings who might be reading this!
This is the first time I’ve written about By Night because, as I mentioned in the conclusion of my last Log’s Comic Blog, I slept on that first issue for about a month. I can now say with confidence that I highly recommend picking up this story. Christine Larsen’s illustration is a fantastic example of how to be funny through image, and paired with John Allison’s writing, these characters come to life in a familiar, friendly way.
Flavor #3 Co-creator/Writing: Joseph Keatinge, Co-creator/Illustration: Wook Jin Clark, Coloring: Tamra Bonvillain, Lettering: Ariana Maher, Culinary Consultant: Ali Bouzari, Flatting Assistant: Fernando Argüello, Logo Design: Rich Tommaso. Published by Image Comics
To my immediate knowledge, this is the first book I’ve read with an action cooking scene. Listen, I’m not a fan of cooking. I’ll go as far as to say I hate cooking. You spend so much time buying, preparing, cooking, and cleaning, just to eat a meal that ends in 30 minutes. Then you have to do it again the next day. Flavor makes cooking look like way more fun than is legal (yes I used that adjective on purpose).
Flavor #3 begins where the last issue left off – the illegal, underground culinary fight club and black market called Fishmongers. Xoo Lim decides that the best way for her to acquire Garuda truffles and help her parents is to fight for them. In these scenes we get to see the humor of Flavor flourish. During the battle cooking scenes there is a wonderful amount of wordplay bait and switch where calls for violence are in turn wholesome and entirely about cooking. For example, a crowd member yells, “Keep ‘em bloody!” only for another onlooker to add, “I prefer well done!” This is what I buy comics for.
As the issue develops, we get to see more of the severity behind the culinary arts in the world of Flavor. The “law” arrives at the fight, everybody scatters, and the issue ends on a cliffhanger that just might seriously derail Xoo’s current objective. The last two issues of Flavor have done an excellent job setting up the story’s world, so a shorter, more action packed issue is very welcome, and the team behind Flavor knocked this one out of the park.
As was the case with By Night, this is my first time reviewing Flavor, so I need to say now how warming and approachable this series is. Flavor quite had me on the first page of issue #1. From there, the series has successfully built up its entertaining world of chefs with an Attack on Titan-esque threat and clever, witty writing all wrapped up with lush illustration and coloring. What sets Flavor aside from quite literally any other comic series I’ve read is Ali Bouzari, the culinary consultant and food scientist who adds a short essay about food to the end of every issue of Flavor. In this month’s issue, Bouzari writes about the concept of “Culinary Time Travel.” In brief, Bouzari describes that in order to well-prepare the food we eat, the application of heat, cold, and a combination of the two causes the nature of food to speed up, slow down, or even reverse in time. To have a short essay like this attached to an enjoyable story is themed effort that sometimes goes unappreciated, which is why I recommend picking up Flavor.
Royal City #12 Created, Written, and Illustrated by Jeff Lemire, Lettering: Steve Wands. Published by Image Comics
Royal City #12 is a rather short issue, mostly due to the fact that nearly half of the story is told through pictures. Royal City #11 ended on quite the reveal (which I won’t spoil because *everybody* needs to read this series), so in this issue it was really quite calming to sit down and reflect on this reveal and what it means for the Pike family. This story has always belonged to nostalgia. It’s visible in the clothing, the music, and of course in Jeff Lemire’s always dream-like water colored and thin-pencilled goodness. Royal City will be concluding in just two more issues, so hanging on each full page of art and soaking in the musical journey that the character in question is experiencing is a way of looking towards the conclusion of this story with sadness for its ending, and hope for some closure behind Tommy’s death and the Pike family’s ails.
I really should just start calling this section “coming up next week” because that’s really what this has morphed into.
Uhh, that being said… I just finished scrolling through the list of new releases next week. I don’t know how else to say this but I don’t know what the hell I’m gonna write about. Looking at Image Comics, they might be my best bet. Unless this is a mistake, it says Royal City #13 is coming out next week. Hey, I’ll take it, but we’ll see for sure when I walk into the comic book shop if it’s on the shelf. Aside from that, there is Shanghai Red #2, a series that I picked up on a whim last month because I listened to too much of The Decemberists the weekend prior and I was craving a story that took place on a boat. I didn’t love the first issue, but it’s something to read. My third option could be – and I really don’t plan on doing this – somehow acquiring and reading the entirety of Descender by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen by next Wednesday because the series finale launches next week. That sounds like something fun to be a part of, but I’m inclined to be lazy (and cheap) and maybe wait for the collected graphic novel… Wow I sure did sell my next post, huh.
As always, thanks for reading!