Comic: Anthony Bourdain’s Hungry Ghosts
Trade: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Dark Horse
“On a dark, haunted night, a Russian Oligarch dares a circle of international chefs to play the samurai game of 100 Candles–where each storyteller tells a terrifying tale of ghosts, demons and unspeakable beings–and prays to survive the challenge.
Inspired by the Japanese Edo period game of Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai, Hungry Ghosts reimagines the classic stories of yokai, yorei, and obake, all tainted with the common thread of food.” (via Comixology)
Co-written by Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose, Hungry Ghosts feels like a modern take on the classic EC horror comics from the pre-Code era. If you’re not a horror comics nerd, let me assure you that is a very favorable comparison to make.
Each of the chefs’ tales are handled by a different artist. Alberto Ponticelli illustrated “Kaidan” and “The Starving Skeleton;” Vanesa Del Rey did “The Pirates;” Leonardo Manco “Salty Horse;” Mateus Santolouco “The Heads;” Sebastian Cabrol “Deep;” Paul Pope “Boil in the Belly;” Irene Koh “The Snow Woman;” and Francesco Francavilla “The Cow Head.” Colorist José Villarrubia and letterer Sal Cipriano provide much needed continuity in an unevenly illustrated series.
As with any anthology, some entries are better than others. To me, Francavilla, Koh, and Del Rey had the strongest art of them all. Koh you may recognize from the lovely Fresh Romance, Francavilla from the great Afterlife with Archie and Del Rey from the vicious Redlands. Each have unique styles unlike anyone else, and turn even the most middling scripts into unsettling stories. Those who read Del Rey know just how cracking she is at drawing devious, beautiful women. Francavilla breaks outside the standard 9-panel mold with a clever twist on the execution of a minotaur. And Koh’s use of manga style is perfect for her take on a vengeful wife.
Overall, the only thing missing from Hungry Ghosts was the kicker. The series seemed to take its subject matter a little too seriously, as if it were imparting great wisdom when in fact it’s a weird, creepy way to pass the time. And being gross fun isn’t a bad thing! No one is ever going to accuse the Crypt Keeper of being high art. Something was missing in the script. I don’t know what, and it wasn’t a major component, but like a good spice its absence is notable. Hungry Ghosts should be more fun than it is; nevertheless, this is a solid B+ trade. It’s the perfect companion for a dark and stormy October night.
My favorite part might actually be the recipes at the end of the series. Although I will never even attempt to make them – the max effort I spend on cooking is 5 ingredients and 30 minutes – I loved pouring over them. These are definitely Tony’s recipes. You can almost hear him reciting them with his sarcastically tinged tone. He makes me want to be more adventurous with my cooking, even though I never will. That was the magic of Anthony Bourdain. To quote the dedication, may resting in peace never be an option.
Thanks to Dark Horse for sending me a review copy.
Do the world a favor and buy this from an indie comic book store or borrow it from your local public library.