The Deadly Gourmet Affair
are times when we desperately need to read a comic with depth;
when we need to experience the merging of prose and picture
into it's highest form of graphic-literature-as-Art. For these
times, the industry possesses such great creators as Will
Eisner, Alan Moore, Craig Thompson, and a bevy of other intellectual
funny book makers.
times when you really want something with explosions, martial
arts mayhem, and just plain old escapist fun, there are Peter
David and his ilk to provide such.
was a fun romp through the world of espionage, super spies,
and high school problems that debuted back in the late 90s/early
00s from Dark Horse. It came just on the cusp of the Manga
explosion, when more and more ameri-manga artwork, like Pat
Lee's Darkminds, was
becoming popular, and I remember it fondly as my first comic
ever purchased from Dark Horse.
is a typical high school kid (how many times have you heard
that in a comic book?): he gets beat up by drug-dealing bullies,
suffers from a rare and strange epileptic condition
maybe he's not that typical. But Alex has been noticing some
things recently; a strange girl following him, experiencing
blackouts, and hearing the name SpyBoy a lot. As it turns
out, Alex is a super-spy with that exact call sign and is
probably the most deadly adolescent on the globe. The only
catch is that Alex has no idea how to trigger his transformation
into SpyBoy, which would come in handy with ninjas, a sociopath
gourmet chef, secret agencies from his father's past, and
a sidekick who loves to blow things up.
David is one of those writers I've always respected but never
really read in-depth. Apparently, I've been missing out, because
David manages to hit all the right points that make an action
comic good: action (obviously), pace, characterization (you
may think this isn't important, and you'd be wrong), and humor.
The action is written and paced almost perfectly, and the
work that must have been highly collaborative between David
and artist Pop Mhan shows to their credit.
introduction to Alex is a close-up of his face meeting the
inside of the toilet on a full page. It's an interesting way
to be introduced to our protagonist and I like that David
found a creative way to show Alex to the reader. Mhan's visual
of this close-up shows his knack for facial expression, which
is sometimes sacrificed in manga style artwork in favor of
more speed lines or a close-up of a pair of eyes large enough
to serve a turkey on. Mhan does great action and David writes
it just as well. The pace is always fast but the story never
speeds by too quick to follow, and Mhan does some creative
work with his panels: using a lot of up and down angle shots,
using a time delay style for some sequences, showing the characters
moving step by step through a single panel instead of breaking
the action into small panel segments, making it choppy.
characters are all interesting (except for the cookie-cutter
thugs, but they're for hitting, not emoting). Alex is an admitted
coward, and has no problem giving up or taking cover if things
aren't going his way. When asked to join forces with the Gourmet
of Doom (not his actual title in the comic, but one I think
is deserved) or to die in a fiery pit of oil, he asks for
a pen and where to sign. It lends to the humorous parts of
the book to have Alex be such a good coward, and David plays
that cowardice off of the SpyBoy persona's cold determination
and battle prowess. David also manages to demonstrate that
Alex and SpyBoy are somehow connected mentally, showcasing
their blatant indifference to the bad guys capping "innocent"
father and grandfather are also great characters, as they're
the ones who tie directly to the mystery of where SpyBoy came
from and who or what Alex really is. The grandfather has a
small role, mostly handing out the colloquial sayings like,
"[Y]ou're not too big to take over my knee
but he also has some of the funniest sequences, when he manages
to defend the Fleming home from invasion. The father shows
an undercurrent of being a faintly dangerous man, and makes
the reader more curious about what lead to the creation of
SpyBoy, which helps get subsequent volumes published.
writes some snappy dialogue and that's where his humor is
found, along with several very good sight gags (I mentioned
the toilet one and there's a great fight scene where someone
gets beaten with a toilet seat; David likes toilets, people).
It's not dialogue on a Bendis level, but it flows and the
characters never seem stiff. I especially like the Gourmet
who laments the lack of imagination in simply shooting someone
to death when there's a vat of boiling oil to fry people in,
making crispy people fritters.
artwork greatly compliments David's script and his style is
at the top of Americ-manga artwork. It's very much like if
Chynna Clugston-Major's decided to draw acrobatic gun battles
instead of punk-rock teen comedy.
only the first volume of the series from Dark Horse, and it
does more to ask the questions about Alex and his past than
to answer them. Not a bad thing, because it encourages you
readers to go out and buy the rest of the trades. What's great
is that this first volume is only $8.95, which isn't much
to ask for a good story that might create an appetite for
more fun super spy shenanigans. Heck, they charge you $5.95
for a "prestige format" comic nowadays, and you
don't get half the story there (they average out at 30-odd
pages don't they?) that you will here. Buy this trade, save
some money, because the god of Christmas himself (I call him
Santeus, Overlord of Brightly Wrapped Packages, Bringer of
Battery-less Toys) knows you have others to spend it on. Happy,
Merry, etc., etc.
Deadly Gourmet Affair