April 2, 2013

Review: Digestate: A Food and Eating Themed Anthology

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Digestate: A Food and Eating Themed Anthology
(Jeffrey Brown, Renée French, Alex Robinson, James Kochalka, Marc Bell, Box Brown, Kevin Cannon, Noah Van Sciver, Josh Bayer, Danny Hellman, Sam Henderson, Josh Burggraf, L. Nichols, Al Ortiz, Sophia Wiedeman, Paul Hoppe, C.M. Butzer, Victor Kerlow, John Kerschbaum, Dan Piraro, Jess Ruliffson, Ben Snakepit, Cha, Adam Hines, Sungyoon Choi, Nate Doyle, Minty Lewis, Hawk Krall, Aaron Mew, Jonas Madden-Connor, Keith Knight, Pranas T. Naujokaitis, Tod C. Parkhill, Jungyeon Roh, Hazel Newlevant, J.T. Yost, Aron Nels Steinke, Gary Fields, Marek Bennett, J.T. Dockery, Jonathan Baylis, Anuj Shrestha, K. Thor Jensen, Nicole J. Georges, Jeremy Tinder, Darryl Ayo, Neil Brideau, James Turek, Jeff Zwirek, James Turek, Ayun Halliday, Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg, William Cardini, Liz Prince; Birdcage Bottom)
4/5 stars

In his "A Word From the Editor" at the start of Digestate: A Food and Eating Themed Anthology, JT Yost blames Berkeley Breathed's Bloom County for making him go vegan. Yost does so in order to inform you that yes, "comics CAN change lives!" Somehow, all this was the impetus for him to go gather the work of over 50 comic artists who have produced work focused on the theme "food and eating," and then layer them, slice by slice, into this anthology.
The theme of "food and eating" comprises a lot more possibilities than you might imagine. Digestate proves this.

This anthology opens with Cha's "Gwenaelle the Baby Sitter: The Shitty World Explained to Children" which is illustrated in a light, fun style but recasts the story of "The Three Little Pigs" as a cautionary tale about the cruel manner in which pigs are factory farmed for their (our?) pork. The juxtaposition between Cha's cartoon style and the horror of the topic is enough to make you lose your lunch -- which I guess is sort of the purpose. This piece, plus Cha's other selection included in this book about the dairy industry, are shotgun blasts blowing apart the public relations veneer covering  how these commodities are actually brought to our tables.  I was a bit worried that the rest of this anthology was going to be just one long rant about why eating meat is bad, why our factory farms are killing us, and why choosing veganism is the (snootily) superior option.
And there is that in the book, that, some of it more heavy handed than others, but this is a food and eating THEMED Anthology which gives Yost opportunity to include all kinds of weirdness and wonderfulness within its 288 pages. 

For example, Noah Van Sciver tells the three-page tale of eating "3 Bowls of Raisin Bran." This is followed by Jeffrey Brown's lovely "Bacon vs. Asparagus with Oscar." Both of these are about as far from a polemic on the evils of factory farming as you can get.
Likewise, Marek Bebbett's "Successful Slaughter" and Neil Brideau's "Tell Now, The Tale of The Argus Mushroom!" are incredible acts of graphic storytelling. There is food involved (sort of), but it is peripheral to the heart of each of these pieces. These two stories stood out as they are more about the concept of how we come together and define ourselves by the rituals surrounding food and what we choose to eat, than the politics behind food production.

Yost has put together a pretty diverse anthology here, with pieces varied to suit almost every taste. It's a smorgasbord, for sure, instead of a well planned gourmet meal. It's Luby's Cafeteria, not Le Cirque. But mmmmmm... Luby's...
I just wish there were more comics about sandwiches. 
You can get Digestate: A Food and Eating Themed Anthology at Birdcage Bottom Books --  and while you're there, you should also check out Yost's own books, Losers Weepers, because they are twelve kinds of awesome.

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