Review – Hot Lunch Special #1 (AfterShock Comics)

Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Writer: Eliot Rahal
Artwork: Jorge Fornes
Lettering: Taylor Esposito
Release Date: 8th August 2018

I’m holding my hands up now and (with apologies) admitting that I’ve never read anything that either Eliot Rahal or Jorge Fornes have produced. This is something I intend to rectify quite quickly.

I’m a huge fan of noir/gangster stories when they’re done well. I’ve been a devotee of Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips for a long time, and more recently the graphic novels coming out of Hard Case Crime. And based on this first issue, I think this has the potential to rank up there with the best. Hot Lunch Special is something of a passion project for Eliot Rahal (The Paybacks, Quantum & Woody). He cites the family, friends and culture he grew up with as the inspiration for this all American… Arab immigrant… Noir thriller and it shows.

In this first issue we learn about the origins of the Khoury family, their apparent fight to free themselves from a world of organised crime and the painful revelations that this was all an illusion and that they’re as up to their neck in organised crime as they ever were.

I really liked the initial world building in Hot Lunch Special, I thought it was clever and inventive and at every step I found myself wanting to know more. The way the history of the family is presented, as a school history assignment, was great and I’d love to see a spin-off series showing the early years of Michael Khoury.

Jordan Khoury is looking to expand the business but has forgotten the people who put him where he is today, and to say he’s ruffled some feathers is an understatement. His trucks are getting hijacked, his drivers are being maimed and the person he turns to for help is the very person he has slighted, however unintentionally. Jordan has made a serious mistake and the repercussions for him, his business and his family could be devastating.

As we get to the end of the issue there is a feeling almost of calm, but there’s still a tension there, just in the background, like waiting for the proverbial storm to break. And then… the cliff hanger at the end of the issue actually had me out of my chair. I’m just really hoping that things haven’t gone the way it seems they have.

Jorge Fornes does a great job on the art in this issue, it’s nice to see a slightly grittier style in the artwork. I sometimes think comics today are too clean and defined but that might just be my age showing. I also like that he has coloured the issue as well. It’s a rare thing to see these days and I think in this instance it just solidifies the world that Rahal and Fornes are trying to build.

The tone is very definitely taken from the Big Book of Noir Palettes but while this can often make artwork either very washed out or too dark to see the details I felt that Fornes got this pretty much spot on. This might just be my perception but I thought the colours changed between the two sides of the story. The slightly dirty, messy and illegal side of the Khoury’s lives are typically noir but the more positive, upbeat parts of the story seemed to have a more colourful, cleaner, brighter feel to them. That might be me reading too much into it but it would be nice to think this was a deliberate device.

In the 25 pages of this first issue I’ve already become firmly invested in these characters, something which is quite hard to achieve in my slightly jaded, older view of the world. I think that speaks volumes about both the writing behind the story and the artwork that helps to bring it to life.

My only slight niggle is that the creators have introduced a lot in this issue and, whilst I think it works well, I’m more of a delayed gratification kind of guy and I’d like to see more time spent on the individual elements of the story. It’s a hard call, though. I like the pace that has been set but I really want to know more about the history, the Khoury family, the people who “helped” build the business… I basically want more. I just hope that Rahal and Fornes can balance my need for expansion with not losing the pace of the story.

Rating: 3.5/5.


The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek ‏

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