Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"So we've got the cheaper Irish beef for Soho, but for Kensington we could import these Japanese beef cuts."
"They look good. Is it still local cuisine though?"
"It's local to wherever it's from! Apparently they're from a little family farm, raised in little traditional barns near Himeji."
"The investors will think it is very on point with authentic branding."
After all, you can't make it to the very top table of the cut-throat world of chefs without some sharp practices, can you? Such as sourcing your "local produce" from the other side of the planet... Tulip is currently riding high indeed, though, it may well be atop a pile of very precariously balanced dirty pots, I mean deeds
Will his lack of integrity when it comes to the very peculiar provenance of his most valuable vittle, a new species of mushroom cultivated by his brother Rowan, come back to give him a criminal case of indigestion
Tulip's meteoric rise to foodie fame and fortune all seemed impossible to even contemplate growing up on a remote Scottish island with his domineering pagan earth mother and slightly worldlier brother. But an unexpected windfall inheritance of a rustic spread in the commuter belt and plenty of cash to start a tiny restaurant in the capital with, due to the untimely death of some well-to-do relatives, sends the brothers southwards to begin their adventures leaving a sour, suspicious matriarch behind them.
As Rowan happily starts growing fruit and veg at his countryside pile like a transplanted laird of the manor, it's left to Tulip to deal with the culture shock and harsh realities of trying to set up shop in the big smoke. Much like Rowan's produce, though, he soon manages to put some roots down and then rapidly starts to thrive. But it's the discovery of the fabulous fungi which is about to transform his trajectory from boutique bistro owner to global business tycoon. Unfortunately, though, the brothers' mushrooms have a little unsavory secret of their own which is behind
or perhaps more precisely underneath
their magic. But their unsuspecting restaurant customers simply cannot get enough of them and business starts to boom!
Soon, that love of cooking Tulip used to live for is being replaced by a lust for the filthy lucre, as he exchanges getting hot plates on the pass for counting cold, hard cash instead
It's such a betrayal of the brothers' original ethos and core values instilled in them by their mum that it inevitably starts to cause ill-feeling between the pair. Can Tulip call last orders on his shady services or will it be too late for our duo to work in fraternal harmony once more?
James Albon has served up a sumptuous mix of ingredients here, gently stirred and ever so slowly brought to the simmer, before allowing events to suddenly boil dramatically over for our bickering brothers. He serves up a fine cast of accompanying characters such as their somewhat unhinged mum who firmly, perhaps not entirely incorrectly, believes London to be a torrid cesspool of sordid temptation, the lovely local kebab shop owner Mustafa who welcomes Tulip to the neighbourhood, his timid but talented new chef, the mousey middle-aged Mabel who is ready to cook up a storm once again, and the sneering maître d' Marcel, who is in fact about as French as McDonald's, but certainly knows how to charm the cash out of customers as front of house.
Artistically, Albon has a wonderfully free-flowing organic style bursting with big, powerful colours and robust, hearty illustration. The emotion he packs into his characters with such energetic body language and expressive features, yet seemingly minimal use of line, is the mark of a true talent. I frequently found myself stopping to savour the composition and absolutely loved the use of variation within individual colours for textural effect, through a variety of different techniques, both in his backgrounds and in the characters themselves. It's a wonderful layering up of visual flavours that only serves to further bring to life the main dish of suspenseful storytelling.
Suffice to say, this carefully cultivated culinary masterpiece does not disappoint the comics palette! If there were Michelin stars for comics, James would be well in with a chance of winning one, but instead he'll have to make do with the much coveted Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month rosette!