Space Battle Lunchtime

I love comic books. I love how they’re able to live in that space between books and cinema: they’re as visually stimulating as a film, but as portable and seekable as a book. You can feel the amount of time put into them, the love labored out over inking, coloring, writing. They’re great.

The best thing about them is they can be consumed very quickly. In fact, I read comic books so fast I almost disappoint myself; I feel like I should take more time with them, savor the images and stories. Maybe I should read them more than once.

I haven’t read Natalie Riess’s Space Battle Lunchtime (volume 1) more than once, though now that I’m thinking about it I might go for it again tonight. I just finished Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, after all. At any rate, what I’ll write now will be first thoughts.

Space Battle Lunchtime is a lot of fun. It’s a play on Food Network shows like Chopped or MasterChef, but in SPACE! And with ALIENS! And kidnapping and murder thrown in! It follows an Earthling baker, Peony, who’s cast to the eponymous intergalactic hit cooking contest show after one of the contestants drops out suddenly. I thought there’d be some, “Oh look, we’re in space! It’s so strange/interesting/post-scarcity/complicatedly political” expository stuff at the beginning, but it turns out not to be the case. Peony’s thrown into production along with us and the show gets going.

The copy I read was the first 4 issues of the comic book bound together. In it, the show goes through your standard cooking-competition elimination rounds while hinting at a darker underbelly to the competition. One of the chefs, Melonhead, is back from a devastating loss last year, and let’s just say he wants that title. Between him and the other alien chefs, the ingredients, and the setting, the comic book is beautifully drawn, as well. I really like the style, which to my mind is something like Steven Universe or other modern cartoons – clean lines, bright colors, a little anime influence.

I think I’ll have to re-read this book when I get home to tide me over til I can find the next one. It ends when the action is just getting interesting.

I read it again!

Okay, so I just reread Volume 1 of Space Battle Lunchtime, and let me say #1 rule of reading: read things more than once! I got so much more n u a n c e out of this reading, and could see where the great and the working-on were.

The detail in this book is richly imagined. Riess obviously watched a lot of Chopped and Iron Chef to get the pacing of the cooking scenes down, and her use of dynamic page composition helps it really feel as though you’re watching an intergalactic space competition. There are loads of other little goodies, too, like when Peony’s handler (I guess that’s what she is? Anyway, she found her for the show) explains the stakes and her clipboard says, “Explain Stakes.” And the way that the space food is drawn looks alien and delicious all at once – I’d love to try some of the dishes that are featured.

The one thing this novel is missing out on is character development. When the show isn’t rolling, Peony hangs out with the crew and with who I think is going to be a love interest, another competitor named Neptunia. I got the feeling that I was supposed to be getting to know these characters in these scenes, but the pacing is a little slow and the dialog a little too generic for me to really know anything about them. That said, most cooking shows we don’t know anything at all about the contestants other than where they’re from and that they love cooking, so I wasn’t expecting too much character-development-wise. It is cool that Riess is working to add another dimension to what could easily have been just a fun take on cooking competition shows.

The next volume (I think of a two-volume series) isn’t at my library yet, but it’s processing. I’ll reserve it and write about it in a new post when I can!