A Vertigo mini-series begins. Does it live up to the history of the publisher, or fit into its recent struggles? Let’s find out as I take a look at “The Kitchen” #1 from Ollie Masters, Ming Doyle and Jordie Bellaire.
Written by Ollie Masters
Illustrated by Ming Doyle
New York City, late 1970s. Times Square is a haven for sex and drugs. The city teeters on the verge of bankruptcy, while blackouts can strike at any moment. This is the world of THE KITCHEN.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect with this. That goes with any story you take in as a reader or viewer, but it goes doubly for this, as I truly didn’t know much about the story and while I’m very familiar with the work of Doyle and Bellaire, Masters was a writer I’d never read anything from. As far as comics go, “The Kitchen” was a blank slate for me.
Maybe that’s why it worked so well, as I came in knowing nothing, but in the span of this single issue, the team delivered everything I needed to know to understand the world of Kath, Raven and Angie, while also investing me in their lives and situation as well.
Masters not having any significant comic experience before this proved to not be much of a deterrent in finding a voice and delivering an interesting and impactful story, but it naturally helped that he had such an able partner in Doyle. I have to give her a whole hell of a lot of credit for what made this comic work so well, as her art very effectively paced this comic. There was a lot to deliver, but Doyle’s layouts and panel work paired with Masters’ script immensely well to give this book a deliberate yet engrossing pace. This book had an immersive pull to it, and Doyle’s work as a conductor of how we took in the story was a big reason why.
The open was what the whole issue was built upon, and not to make an obvious comparison, but it felt like the best kind of crime film. The minimalist but high attitude narration. The action hook that set the stage. The final panel that reveals the premise. All of the pre credits page action delivered everything you needed to know about the book, which gave the rest of the issue room to breathe and to create the depth we needed to care about these women.
And care we do. These are women put into a situation that isn’t necessarily natural to them (especially Angie and Raven), but when their very livelihood and the respect – and that word is hugely important in this book – is on the line, they find out what they’re made of. The final page, with Kath’s powerful pose that Doyle delivers and the stellar omniscient narration from Masters, is an almost cathartic moment where one woman in the face of danger finds empowerment, and it’s a really spectacular thing, even if it may have a cost to it.
Bellaire deserves a ton of credit as well, as her colors both help dictate the mood of the story and more impactfully create the environment. One panel – when the police approach the soon to be jailed Jimmy – is noticeably well done in how she fills the scene with red. It both fits the realism of the scene with the police car on site, but it also adds to the “these guys are done for” feel of it. Her colors are never the showstopper, but she accentuates the story well throughout.
This isn’t a perfect comic by any means. There are some awkward moments with perspective in Doyle’s art – two moments in specific included a wonky looking police car early on and a wine glass in Kath and Raven’s first meeting – but those are minor things in a sea of well done elements by Doyle.
And for everyone involved. Masters delivers characters with built-in depth from the start, introducing us to years of history between Kath and Raven with a simple question about dinner. Doyle’s character work superbly shows the building confidence in Kath throughout the big scene at the end. Bellaire adds to the ferocity of it with small color flourishes in the right spots. This is a total team effort, and a team delivering a very interesting debut with a whole lot of potential going forward. “The Kitchen” is off to a strong start, and I’m excited to see if Kath, Angie and Raven find the respect their imprisoned husbands had and that they deserve as we go along.Continued below
Final Verdict: 7.5 – A very strong start to a fine new Vertigo series