Preparations are underway for the huge culinary competition in The Bowl! Xoo finds out that Uncle Geof has stolen the till – and entered her into the competition. No pressure, right?
Writer: Joseph Keatinge
Artists: Tamra Bonvillain, Wook Jin Clark
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: September 19, 2018
Previously in Flavor: Xoo was arrested at an underground cooking tournament, and offered up to the chief for sacrifice to the terror beyond The Bowl. Instead, the chief let her go. (Later, we find out the chief is Anant’s mother!) Meanwhile, Xoo’s Uncle Geof took all the food stand’s cash on a desperate gamble – entering Xoo into the big competition!
COOKING AS THE ULTIMATE CELEBRITY
Flavor #5 opens on The Bowl setting up for the culinary competition. Anant is watching the excitement from high up in the academy. One of the instructors sees him and talks to him, telling him that the contest is open to all chefs – including students, who can enter for free. A student is unlikely to win, but it’s more about the experience, after all.
In contrast, Xoo is at her shop, devastated. All the money is gone. She doesn’t even want Buster’s (her dog’s) attention. Buster, who is highly intelligent, sniffs the empty till and sniffs around the shop, and something in one of the bedrooms gets him riled up. Then we cut to Uncle Geof, who is hanging out at the ice cream place, drowning his sorrows in ice cream until Buster jumps on him and confronts him. Buster knocks him over, sniffs him thoroughly, and pulls out a piece of paper from his pocket. Geof tells him to read it, and apparently, Buster can. It is the entry for the competition.
Buster convinces Geof to come clean, which he does. Xoo gives him a dressing down. The money he took goes to pay their bills, buy their food, pay their taxes, and he didn’t think of the consequences? But Geof is counting on the tournament money. Xoo is sensible and reminds him that only the winner get any money. Geof, ever optimistic, tries to convince her that the publicity alone would bring in more customers.
At Anant’s home, his mother sets her foot down and forbids him to enter the contest. As his mother, she only wants what is best for him. There’s a greater world out there, and she wants him to be able to reach it. After he goes to bed, his father asks the crucial question – Are they doing the right thing? “You know what happens” when “they” win, she says, and would he want him to have the same fate? We know they take their cooking seriously here, but here we get a thread of something deeper, something perhaps even sinister. This is a world that touches on reality, and has serious moments, but this is the first time for me that I felt a thread of true darkness, and it sent a little shiver down my spine.
Xoo goes to the competition and we meet a few competitors. This is an interesting competition – everyone Xoo meets has a specialty (stew, for example, or spaghetti). I’m intrigued – how do they ever run a contest like this? (In my mind, I’m equating it to a dog show – perhaps each dish is judged by a specialty judge and compared against the ideal for that particular dish.) Xoo did not come here intending to enter, and the woman at the registration desk has no time for her if she did not come to enter, as there are so many people who are here for that. And, at the last minute, Xoo changes her mind.
The book closes with a page about cooking, and this one is particularly useful. It discusses having a variety of basic things available in your pantry (in broad categories), and how you can combine them (by those categories) into interesting dishes. I actually cook in a similar fashion sometimes, and it is handy advice for learning to experiment with cooking (as opposed to following recipes).
LIGHT AND CRISP
The art in Flavor #5 has such a nice, clean line to it. Everything is crisp and clear, from crowd scenes in long shots, to close-ups. There’s a good amount of detail when you take a closer look. Even people in the background have interesting expressions. I like the contrast between the scenes of the competition grounds, which are rich with supplies and ingredients and elegant backgrounds, and Xoo’s shop, which is clean and rather bare.
We see Geof at the ice cream bar again. This is such a fun concept – we easily see how it parallels a bar that sells alcohol, and it works in this setting. This is also a great scene because this is where Buster accosts Geof. Buster is considerably smarter than a normal dog, to the point where people can kind of understand him (particularly Xoo, but even Geof can to some degree). I also like when Geof confesses to Xoo. Buster is there too, sitting on the couch with his paws crossed and a skeptical, accusatory expression on his face.
The coloring is lovely as well. It is full of nice warm tones with somewhat muted colors that complement each other. Overall, it gives the world a sunny feeling that keeps making me think this is a light book, right up until the times we get hints of serious undertones.
BOTTOM LINE: A QUIET ADVENTURE, BUT WITH SOME LOVELY FOOD
Flavor #5 has an interesting world which is pleasantly self-consistent. Food is at the center of the story, and other than that, the key conflicts so far are very familiar – family sickness, money difficulties, challenges at school. There is some very nice character development, and this builds on hints that were planted in earlier issues. This is a charming book.