Hot Lunch Special #1 is an attention-grabbing new crime series from AfterShock that builds a serious, grown-up family drama around the supplying of vending machines.
I suspected I’d like Hot Lunch Special #1 when I saw the cover – severed fingers poking from a sandwich is an attention-grabber, you must admit. But I knew I’d like Hot Lunch Special #1 when the opening panels made good on the promise of dismembered digits. It’s rare that a comic immediately follows through like that. And it hit close to home. I’ve never eaten a vending machine sandwich without worrying that I’ll find something in there that shouldn’t be; a finger doesn’t even seem all that unlikely.
For all their diverse offerings, AfterShock likes a certain type of story, and it’s usually one that couldn’t be told anywhere else. Hot Lunch Special seems like that kind of story, even if, thus far, not enough has happened to really be able to say for certain. It’s a noir crime story knitted to a Lebanese family drama, played entirely straight, with mobsters competing for the right to supply vending machines with sandwiches that may or may not contain parts of the human anatomy.
Written by Eliot Rahal and illustrated by Jorge Fornes, Hot Lunch Special #1 does a great job of weaving the past with the present, giving a brief history of the Khoury family and their roots in organised crime, before stuffing the first issue with hectic goings-on that made a surprising amount of sense given how tightly-packed they were. I might still have appreciated a little more space to take it all in and get to know the characters, but sometimes simplistic storytelling is the best kind: This guy you like, this guy you don’t, see you next week.
Fornes’s vaguely retro artwork gives the world a thickly-lined realism, and the panel composition is pleasingly cinematic, which works with the material. Is it genius to craft a serious, grown-up crime story about a relatively trivial industry like the supplying of gas station vending machines? I think it might be. At the very least it’s an inspired choice that gives Hot Lunch Special #1 an immediately unique feel, despite the fact it’s a hodgepodge of genre tropes and typical chain-wearing, cigar-smoking tough guys with “Big” in front of their names. Who knows what’ll be in the sarnies next issue?