Sunday, July 15, 2018

REVIEW: The Beef

One of the strangest books I have ever read has come to an end. I’ll admit it: when I first started doing these weekly comics posts, I didn’t like only spotlighting two issues a week. I started reviewing anything that I could to have a decent post every week. The Beef was one of those books, but now I’m honestly going to miss it. It’s been a wild ride, but I’m glad I decided to read The Beef. Check out my full review of the series after the jump.

Disclaimer:I received advance copies of the single issues that make up The Beef courtesy of Image Comics.
Opinions are my own. 

The Beef is about a guy named Chuck who works at a slaughterhouse. Flashbacks show Chuck bullied as a kid, his father was also a cow-killer and kind of a screw up in a small sins-of-the-father town. In the present, Chuck faces his old bullies, who are still super racist assholes, and tries to stand up to them.

A combination of the exotoxins in beef, genetically modified fruits and vegetables, the electric equipment used in the cow slaughtering process, and the environment of the cow farming community have all mixed together to cause Chuck to Hulk out into a massive meat monster at the sight of his love interest nearly dying at the hands of his asshole bullies. From that first issue I knew I was in for a zany adventure of love, action, and beef.

After batting away the car containing his local bullies, Chuck gets a glimpse of himself and runs off to be all “What have I become?” like he’s Ben Grimm or something. The second issue has a focus on Mary-Lynn, Chuck’s illegal immigrant love interest. The story of her trip across the border and their socio-economic situation has nothing to do with cow meat (which is otherwise the main topic of every single page) and the bold choice to leave the Spanish dialogue untranslated marks the moment where The Beef full changes from a weird story about a beefed up superhero into topical, political commentary.

The social and economic commentary doesn’t end there. In the third issue we’re given a close-up and brutal version of the documentary you had to watch in your high school health class about how we treat animals. After we learn about the horrifying reality of where veal comes from, Chuck hulks out again to his alter ego as The Beef and we learn - I guess? - that he can control cows - I guess? - or at least communicate with them telepathically? I guess? It’s so weird to see a smart analysis of social issues in the same story where a man turns into a meat hulk because he grew up on GMOs. You’ll actually learn something on this ultra-weird adventure.

The subtlety of the comic’s running commentary gets less subtle in the later issues. The fourth issue opens on four straight pages of “where does milk come from?” with all of the disgustingly accurate details. The weirdest part? It totally works. The contrast between the harsh realities of how we treat cows perfectly collides with the bizarre tale of a man who turns into a big beef tank. I shouldn’t like it, but I do. It’s so weird and strange and I want more. The Beef is different and weird and nothing like I expected, but I’m glad I decided to pick it up.

You can pre-order the trade paperback collection of The Beef here.