Monster Banquet

Anthony Bourdain’s Final Graphic Novel Is a Grisly, Ghostly Tale

Hungry Ghosts, cowritten with longtime collaborator Joel Rose, was released by Dark Horse Comics four months after Bourdain’s 2018 death.

By Fiona McCann December 5, 2018

From the cover of Hungry Ghosts

A starving skeleton devouring a chef who denied him sustenance; floating severed heads preparing for a feast; a gluttonous fan of horse meat visited by the spirit of what he has consumed: Behold the ghoulish cast of characters of Hungry Ghosts, a collaboration between Anthony Bourdain and writer Joel Rose that marks the final such publication from the late chef and writer.

Portland’s Dark Horse Comics released the graphic novel in October, just months after Bourdain’s death in June. A full-cover hardcover, it brings together stories from a series released earlier in 2018 drawing from old Japanese lore and the Samurai game of 100 Candles, and contains all-new original recipes from Bourdain.

Illustrators Sebastian Vanesa Del Rey, Francesco Francavilla, Irene Koh, Leonardo Manco, Alberto Ponticelli, Paul Pope, and Mateus Santolouco—with deep and saturated color from José Villarrubia—bring to life macabre tales themed around food, ostensibly being told to a Russian oligarch by a group of international chefs , with each storyteller blowing out a candle after their turn. The night gets darker with every candle extinguished, the stories more terrifying as each storyteller pushes back the encroaching darkness with grisly monsters and ghoulish, gluttonous humans.  

Bourdain fans are also treated to five new and original recipes from the late author and television personality, as well as a dedication from Rose to his late friend and longtime collaborator. “For the hungriest ghost of them all: my friend, my collaborator, my pal, my long-time running mate,” says Rose. He adds: “Save me a beer, brother, and a seat at the table.”

A portrait of Bourdain by Francesco Francavilla in Hungry Ghosts

Rose and Bourdain first collaborated on the bestselling graphic novel Get Jiro!, edited by Karen Berger, who reunited with the duo for Hungry Ghosts. “Tony grew up a huge fan of R Crumb and the horror stories of EC Comics and for a time, he wanted to be a comic book artist,” says Berger in a press release. “It’s heartbreaking that we lost Tony, but I’ll always treasure my memories of his irreverent spirit, generosity, and his passion for comics and art.”

Ghoulish, grim, mythical, and mindful, Hungry Ghosts drags an Edo period parlor game slithering and suppurating into the 21st century, populating it with characters from all over the world, in stories that dive into themes of hunger, gluttony, want, and excess with truly terrifying results.

“The classic stories told herein are cast around the world and obsessed with love, erotica, and gluttony, more often than not turned into supernatural revenge,” writes Rose in the book. “Each is a tale of yurei (ghosts), yokai (apparitions, spirits and demons) and/or reikon (inner beings residing within each of us and only unleashed at death). These were Tony’s obsessions, not mine. At least, at first. He brought me to their riches, and now I too, am in their throes.”

Prepare to mine these riches in this Dark Horse hardcover. As Bourdain and Rose say in their joint dedication, written just days before the latter’s death: “May resting in peace not be an option.”

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