Stylizing Subversion in Hot Lunch Special 1

by Drew Baumgartner

Hot Lunch Special 1

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

I’m fascinated by stories where a criminal world of evil bubbles up through the veneer of suburban/small town life. David Lynch’s Blue Velvet might be the defining example of that particular genre, but the Coen Brothers’ Fargo is another great one. And actually, the television adaptation/reimagining of Fargo might be my favorite such story to date — the extra space afforded by serialized storytelling allowed the series to mine some truly chilling, truly bizarre moments while still keeping one foot in a recognizable small town world. Indeed, it’s that anchor in reality that makes Fargo more appealing to me than, say, Lynch’s Twin Peaks, which eschews normalcy in favor of anadulterated Lynchian weirdness. Don’t get me wrong — all of that weirdness makes Twin Peaks the masterpiece that it is, but I maintain that Fargo‘s more familiar setting is what makes the occasional brushes with violence all the more unsettling. That’s very much the approach Eliot Rahal and Jorge Fornés have taken in Hot Lunch Special 1, which relishes the innocence of its midwestern setting, even as its criminal underside makes a few key appearances.

Taking a page out of Blue Velvet, the issue opens with the disruption of that mundane small-town world with the discovery of a severed body part — in this case, a finger in a vending machine sandwich. Actually, that scene does such a good job of establishing both the normalcy and the weirdness of this series, I’m just gonna post it in full:

I've heard of finger sandwiches, but this is ridiculous!

The top half of this page is all essential tone setting: quiet night, lonely cop, nobody around to even sell him a burger. But then the second half is pure weird, unexpected violence. The “where” and the “what” of this premise seem so different, we can’t help but read on to find out how they ever came in contact.

And by the end of the issue, we have an explanation for the finger, but its one that frames it as the first volley in an escalating conflict between a legitimate business and its mobster financier over shipping deals. Things are going to get worse in Minnesota before they get better. Meanwhile, we get to know a bit more about the families of those two key players, as well as the dogged investigator that seems to be piecing it all together. That last detail definitely has echoes of Fargo, but in all of the right ways.

All of which has me very excited about this series going forward. I’d probably be excited about this premise even if this first issue wasn’t handled as well as it was, but Rahal and Fornés paint a crystal clear picture of this world and its inhabitants. I really can’t help but be drawn in.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

What you got?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s