Hell’s Kitchen. Today it is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in New York City. Flush with a bevy of fantastic restaurants, upscale housing, and a diverse populace, it has become a welcome refuge to visitors looking to escape the business of Times’ Square. It was not always this way. Though the origin of the neighborhood’s name is largely ambiguous, it can be contributed to it’s reputation as the city’s lowest, filthiest place during the late 19th and much of the 20th century. Crime proliferated throughout the area, as Irish American crews such as the Westies used the neighborhood as a base of operations from the 1950s into the 1980s. It is the 1970s, smack in the middle of the Westies’ control of the neighborhood, that Ollie Masters and Ming Doyle’s The Kitchen #1 takes place.
As the opening chapter, the majority of The Kitchen #1 is spent setting up the series’ characters and setting. Though initially focused on Irish gang leader Jimmy Brennan and his pals, The Kitchen quickly shrugs them to the side in favor of their wives. The readers are introduced to Jimmy’s wife, Kath, along with Raven and Angie. As she is given the most attention from the creative team, Kath is the clearly most interesting of the trio, though that could change in the coming months.
Most leading ladies in comics have superpowers or, at the very least, are relatively young in age. Kath does not fit that mold. The faithful, middle-aged wife of an Irish gangster, Kath already appears to be different from the other women that headline comic series before taking her personality into account. Hardened by both her husband’s business and her environment, she is unwilling to stand idle while her husband’s other associates fail to keep the “business” afloat, and so she takes matters into he own hands. Though her activities are not necessarily legal, her assertiveness and self-motivating attitude can be seen as inspiring.
If inspiring is an improper word choice, she is at the very least captivating, especially as rendered by Doyle’s art. Kath, as well as Raven and Angie, are women that have been weathered by age, rather than maintaining supermodel looks as commonly seen. Her hair is not perfectly styled. Her clothes are frumpy. It’s a package that, when it comes together, feels real and identifiable to the reader.
Masters and Doyle do a wonderful job in allowing readers to know and understand who Kath is. With the audience hooked and invested in her, they allow her to do some horrible things and drag her friends into the muddy waters with her. Because of how captivating Masters and Doyle’s work is, readers may overlook the fact that Kath, despite being the lead protagonist, might not be the “hero” of this story. Whether or not that is the case remains to be seen, but readers are encouraged to jump onto this title right now. It’s going to be a gripping, twisting ride through one of America’s most notorious neighborhoods.