By Zack Quaintance — Hot Lunch Special, which launched from AfterShock Comics in August, is a unique series, a crime story that feels like Fargo steeped in intense family drama as well as the dry intricacies of the food distribution business. It’s done what (in my opinion) many of the most interesting crime dramas do, which is kill off characters one presumes to be safe or integral to its plot, doing so at a pace closer to Game of Thrones than to a nice Midwestern comic book like this one. This week’s Hot Lunch Special #5, the series finale (at least for now…), is no exception.
And I don’t think it’s a spoiler to note that in this issue death has come to the folks at Khoury Foods, as well as to their Chicago-based, mildly Irish mob-connected Moran family rivals. The entire series (which has been bloody throughout) has clearly been building to this climax, which is essentially a full-issue standoff in which revenge, prosperity, and the continued safety of certain family members (who have all been through a lot) is at stake. An action-heavy and consequential ending has been promised, maybe going as far back as issue #1 or #2, and an action-heavy and consequential ending is what Hot Lunch Special #5 delivers.
Eliot Rahal continues to write the hell out of this comic with reckless abandon, incorporating plot twists that I presume are difficult for him as a creator. Rahal is literally killing his darlings left and right throughout this book, doing so in ways that feel organic rather than contrived for long-term or poignant plotting purposes. He also revels in the esoteric nature of the food business he’s set out to portray here. It isn’t played for laughs, and it really hasn’t been at any point through this series. It’s depicted as what it is: a day’s work, a way for generations of a family (and for those they service) to literally eat. There’s so much respect in that, even if he surrounds it all with madcap bloody violence (because, hey, this is still comics…).
Jorge Fornes, meanwhile, is a superstar in the making. In fact, the Hot Lunch Special co-creator and artist has already been tabbed by DC Comics as what looks to be its next big Batman artist, and I haven’t seen one of the Big 2 act this fast to find a perfect fit for a major new talent since Donny Cates got to wreck the future of the universe over at Marvel (and before that Tom King was drafted to write Batman and Mister Miracle). Fornes was made to draw the type of moody noir and action sequences as at home in Hot Lunch Special as they seem likely to be in forthcoming issues of Batman.
So yes, this issue was a satisfying climax that absolved some jams, made its characters pay high prices, and delivered on much of the foreshadowing and tension incorporated into earlier issues. If you’ve read all four of the proceeding chapters, you’ll read this one, and if you’ve been intrigued by what you’ve heard of Hot Lunch Special, you’ll be happy to know it has an end that won’t diminish anything that came before it once you read it all in trade. The last item of note here is that that ending also all but guarantees future issues. The stories in the first volume are essentially wrapped up in a way that creates urgent issues to be absolved moving forward. Exciting stuff.
Overall: Hot Lunch Special #5 is an action-packed and tragic conclusion that all but promises more story. If you’ve enjoyed the other issues of this book, you’re likely to love it’s ending, and if you’ve been intrigued by what you’ve heard, you’ll be happy to know it will all read quite well in trade. 8.5/10
Hot Lunch Special #5
Writer: Eliot Rahal
Artist: Jorge Fornes
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.