Deep Space Cuisine

An article by, Aaron Burton

During my breaks from college I worked as a television salesman at a dying local department store. The lack of customers turned the job into one of talking and watching TV all day. The only TV connected to cable had parental controls enabled. The password was long forgotten by the managers. The Food Network was one of the only channels we could leave on all day that would not hit the parental locks. Ever since then I have loved cooking.

There are many comic books that are centered around food, such as Bryan Lee O'Malley's Seconds and Brian Wood's Starve. As a I child I watched a four turtles binge-eat pizza. As an adult Layman and Guillory's Chew helped me rediscover my love of comic books. Needless to say I get a bit excited when I find a book with a food-driven plot.

Wonton Soup is written and drawn by James Stokoe, who is known for his work with IDW's Godzilla series as well as Image Comic's Orc Stain. Wonton Soup dates back as early as 2007 with the collected edition being published in July of 2014. The book is a space opera-comedy combining humor with epic science fiction.

Johnny Boyo is one of the most talented chefs on his home planet. After realizing his cooking school was killing his creativity, he drops out to travel the universe and sample all of the foods that other worlds have to offer. He funds this excursion by starting a career as a space trucker. This is where Johnny is paired up with a stoned and perverted sidekick named Deacon. Together the two go on an epic journey where they fight space ninjas, get high on ancient alien artifacts, and eat good food.

Stokoe does a brilliant job of weaving the classic slacker story into an epic space opera. For every dramatic turn in the plot there is also a series of jokes and humorous situations. There are even points where the fourth wall is broken. At one point Stokoe admits that he got too high to finish drawing the panels, and jokingly urges his readers to fill in the blanks by leaving them two blank pages.

One of the most impressive aspects of Wonton Soup is the world-building. Every planet Boyo visits is filled with unique creatures, foods and ingredients. Stokoe excels at normalizing extremely outlandish characters and concepts. Of course fish can be cooked by throwing grenades at the meat. I have no doubt that the flavor is enhanced by shooting the fillet with plasma bullets. Once you are committed to the universe of Wonton Soup everything makes perfect sense.

Wonton Soup is drawn in black and white. This leaves certain challenges artistically as the story calls for the darkness of outer space. Stokoe found creative ways to accomplish this task. In many of the outer space scenes where the background is mostly black, the characters are drawn with a while outline around their bodies. This keeps the characters from blending into the background and gives them an interesting look as if they were cut out of a separate sheet of paper. Scenes with lighter backgrounds are given extra depth with the use of Ben-Day dots.

I had a great time reading Wonton Soup. I read it over the course of a three hour flight. This book made time fly. Stokoe's art style is really great. He does a lot of creative choices in this book. His art at times reminds me of Jamie Hewlett. If you are a fan of cooking or just love silly humor then I would give this book a go.

The collected edition of Wonton Soup is available through both Comixology and Oni Press.

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