HUNGRY GHOSTS #1 by Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose, Alberto Ponticelli and Vanesa Del Rey
The comic does exactly what it promises: tells ghost stories with a focus on the food that gets the people in the horrific situations.
85 %
Satisfyingly spooky

When a rich multi-billionaire demands that the chefs who just served him dinner play the ancient Japanese game of 100 Candles, tales of terror and ghosts begin. Written by Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose with art from Alberto Ponticelli and Vanesa Del Rey, HUNGRY GHOSTS #1 hopes to satisfy the cravings of any classic horror fans.

Don’t Turn Out the Lights

The story begins with an introduction for the reader, telling them the series’ intentions of wanting to terrify and excite (like a Japanese version of THE TWILIGHT ZONE more or less). In HUNGRY GHOSTS #1, the creators tell two main ghost stories: one of a ramen chef who refused to feed a poor, hungry customer; the other of a lady rescued by pirates who’s not what she seems. It’s a fairly straightforward set-up. Characters in the comic are telling the stories the readers hear about on the page. Yet, as explained early on, each story they tell will cause one of the candles in the room to go out. The intensity of the comic promises to increase as the room grows darker and darker.

Image courtesy of Berger Books.

The tone of HUNGRY GHOSTS #1 reminded me most of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark: terrifying to look at but fairly tame when read. However, despite the similarities it shares with the children’s series, it does a better job of visualizing the demons. All of the ghosts and monsters in these stories have quite outlandish yet familiar designs. For example, the ghosts in the comic appear skeletal and gangly. This contrasts nicely with the usual iconography of ghosts as translucent, but otherwise human figures.

Interview with GHOST HOUSE Director and Producer Rich and Kevin Ragsdale

HUNGRY GHOSTS #1 and Multiculturalism

It’s worth noting that the primary writer on this work is the revered Anthony Bourdain. While not often associated with ghost stories, he’s known in large part for his cooking talents. As such, there’s a refreshing emphasis on the food aspect of HUNGRY GHOSTS #1 — all of the ghost stories getting told by the guests revolve around culinary delights in one way, shape, or form. Sometimes, this is a stretch to the point where it doesn’t make a ton of sense. But, it’s still enjoyable to read.

Image courtesy of Berger Books

That being said, there’s also a large emphasis on the Japanese culture within the comic book. While I am no expert on the topic, it is interesting to see a crew of primarily white creators work on this comic. I am not sure as to whether or not this would read as appropriative to those of Japanese descent. However, it seems like the creators just wish to use an old Edo-period game to provide context for this anthology, which seems fairly innocuous. Still, this would have been the perfect opportunity to showcase Japanese artists and writers. Maybe in the future, the HUNGRY GHOSTS team will consider doing such a thing.

Horrors That Haunt Your Nightmares

While the stories themselves appear tame on paper, the art really helps sell the creepy vibe. Artists Alberto Ponticelli and Vanesa Del Rey both do a wonderful job bringing this intense world to life. The art at the beginning appears more sketchy, which helps disorientate the reader. This adds a level of mystery and anxiety that the cooks themselves feel when the Russian asks them to tell ghost stories. When they tell the stories, the art style changes. This helps sell that a different person tells each tale.

MONSTER by Chris Galvin, André Taquari, and Kristine Don

All in all, HUNGRY GHOSTS #1 does exactly what it promises to do: tell food-related ghost stories. As a unique approach to the horror genre, any fans of cooking and spooky tales may finally merge their interests. Hopefully, the stories start to increase in intensity issue by issue. Still, for now, the comic fills the void for those hungry for horror.

You’ll have to wait for the release of HUNGRY GHOSTS #1 on January 31st to satiate your hunger for horror. Until then, you can preorder HUNGRY GHOSTS #1 here!

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