Writer: Joseph Keatinge
Artists: Wook Jin Clark & Tamra Bonvillain
I’m not sure if I’ve ever read anything like Flavor before. Flavor #1 is the debut issue of Joe Keatinge’s latest Image series. Keatinge is known for some great creator-owned titles, including Glory and Shutter. Keatinge’s ability to craft wonderfully imaginative worlds never fails to amaze, and Flavor #1 continues that trend with a stellar debut.
In the world of Flavor, food is king and chefs need to be licensed in order to mean anything. In this world, we have Xoo, an underaged, unlicensed chef who is struggling to keep the family business. Xoo is brash and independent and represents every young person that aspires to achieve something that others say is out of reach. Readers will instantly find themselves identifying with characters, who are all whimsical and fun.
The solicitation for the series mentions influences from Studio Ghibli, and it won’t take long to see the inspiration. The settings are full of life, with this issue showing what makes the medium so special. The world of Flavor feels so alive thanks to the chemistry between Keatinge and the artists, Wook Jin Clark and Tamra Bonvillain. Clark’s characters are expressive and animated, and most of them feel like they came straight out of a children’s movie. Bonvillain’s colors add the final touch of personality to all of the characters, giving us a bright world with no limits. It’s rare to see a writer mesh so well with the artists, but this is a case where the creators, characters, and story concept come together so beautifully.
One more element that makes this creative team so unique is the inclusion of a culinary consultant. The inclusion of Ali Bouzari as an expert in the field adds a much welcome authenticity to panels that include food. There is an exceptional amount of care in pages that mention food, which makes the world of Flavor that much more easy to get sucked into.
While the characters, world, and art are all paragons of what the medium is capable of, the first issue does fall short in just a few areas. The progression of the story wasn’t too interesting to follow, and I found myself much more interested in getting to know the characters or the world more than Xoo’s situation. The pacing was a little off at times as well, with some scenes going too quickly while others dragged on a bit. Fortunately, the world building is so good in Flavor that the reader will still find themselves delighted as they flip through the pages.
Flavor #1 is likely Keatinge’s best debut yet, but it would be unfair to give him all of the credit. The entire creative team plays a massive role in making this book click so well, and I can’t help but feel like this series is going to be special. Anyone who has any interest in fantasy stories or just like food should absolutely pick this one up.
Flavor #1 is a joy to read and a breath of fresh air. It's rare to see a creative team mesh this well.