So it appears that one of the sites I’ve done a fair amount of writing for, geekyuniverse.com, has shuttered its digital doors.Furthermore, it looks as if they sold their domain name off to something called “Swagger Magazine,” whatever that is, and did all of this without informing any of us contributors that it was happening. Am I pissed? I guess I wasn’t at first, but now I sort of am, simply because all that content I posted on there, much of which was pretty good (even if I do only say so myself), is now lost forever, and because, going by sheer numbers alone, my stuff was far and away the most popular material on the site. Seriously, most of the posts on there were lucky to generate a half-dozen “likes” and one or two faceboook and twitter “shares,” while my articles routinely got a couple hundred of each. Does that mean I think my stuff was “better” than the work of the site’s other contributors? I dunno. I guess that’s all a matter of taste. I’d invite you to compare all of our work and decide for yourself, but — it’s all gone. And somebody made a little bit of money — probably not much, but something — selling off a site that was built by the work of folks who submitted work to it for free. Pretty goddamn sleazy, really.
Anyway, I’ve tried to get an explanation as to why it all went away without explanation, but the (now former) owners of the site haven’t responded to either my tweets or my emails, so I guess all I can do it call ’em out on their bullshit here and let them know that I’m not impressed. Don’t spend that two or three hundred bucks you made in one place.
Still, what the hell does any of this have to do with Through The Shattered Lens? Well, it means — for better or worse — that I’ll have a little bit more time to contribute to this site for the next couple of months, until my super-big-project-that-I-can’t-talk-about-yet eats up all my time for a little while, and that I’ll have more time for this site again once said super-big-project-that-I-can’t-talk-about-yet is finished. It also means that my quick-fire comic book reviews — as opposed to the lengthy, detailed, serialized pieces I do for the more “academic” comic website sequart.org — are in need of a new home with the demise of GU, so you’re getting ’em here.
I figure, hey, why not? Nobody else here “talks comics” very regularly, and I know a certain number of readers (and writers) here are fans of the medium, so, for the time being at an rate, I’ll “park” my comic book review work here unless and until Arleigh or Lisa Marie or somebody tells me to take it somewhere else. Which they won’t because they’re good people who like to indulge me — right?
With all that preamble shit out of the way, then, let’s talk about The Kitchen #1, shall we? It’s a new eight-part creator-owned mini-series from DC’s venerable “mature readers” imprint, Vertigo, and it stands out for not only being a book centered on non-spandex-clad female characters, but for boasting a nearly-all-female creative team — except for, ya know, the writer.
Described in Vertigo’s press materials as a “talented newcomer,” author/co-creator Ollie Masters provides the only whiff of testosterone here, with the project’s artist/co-creator being the talented Ming Doyle, fresh off her run on the critically-lauded Image series Mara (which was written by apparent serial-sexual-harasser Brian Wood), the colorist being the highly-sought-after Jordie Bellaire, and covers coming our way courtesy of current “hot property” artist Becky Cloonan (except for the variant for this first issue, pictured above, which is from Doyle’s own mind and hand).
With a crew like that in place, then, you can be sure that the finished product is gonna look good — and it does. Doyle evokes the 1970s Hell’s Kitchen settings perfectly, and her characters look like real human beings of the sort you’d see at the time. Everything from the home furnishings to the cars to the street scenes to the facial expressions are all wonderfully authentic and yet also smoothly expressionistic, with everyone looking like a real, actual individual rather than a curvy superheroine who just happens to be wearing street clothes. The seventies were a wonderfully “run down” time in New York — long before Times Square and other “red light districts” got gobbled up by Disney — and the titular Kitchen was especially run down, even by then-contemporary standards. You feel every bit of that oozing, semi-intoxicating unwholesome-ness in Doyle’s art and Bellaire”s suitably drab, realistic colors.
So, then, what of the story? I’m unfamiliar with Masters’ other work — assuming he has any to his credit — but he acquits himself very nicely here. The premise goes that local loan shark/”protection” racket strongman Jimmy Brennan, a semi-connected guy in the Irish mob, has been sent away, along with two of his crew, for beating the shit out of some snitch right in plain sight of the cops, and in his absence, his brother, Jack, is letting things slide to the point that Jimmy’s wife, Kath, and her friends, Angie and Raven (who are married to the two other guys that got shipped upstate along with their boss), are finding the weekly takes from local businesses that the rely on to maintain their “lifestyles” are getting lighter and lighter all the time. Not content to let this state of affairs continue, and unable to rely om Jack to straighten it out, they decide to take matters into their own hands. Problem is, their primary target, a pizza shop owner, turns out to be a lot more than just another dime-a-dozen welcher, and “sending a message” by going after him on their first night out may prove to be a fatal mistake —
First issues can be a little bit of a tricky business because you’ve gotta introduce most, if not all, of your principal cast, give them each a semi-distinct personality, and establish the basic “through-line” of your plot, all while leaving things on nice little cliffhanger that will have your readers coming back for more. Masters manages to do all that and furthermore, he does so without ever making it feel like he’s going into overly-heavy “info-dump” mode. All in all, it’s a job very well done.
Combine great art and color (and covers) with a reasonably good, involving story, stick it between two covers, and keep the price — thankfully! — at $2.99, and you have to say that The Kitchen is definitely following a recipe for success.