Instead of my usual taste in comics, one’s hell-bent on displaying the many pains of living, I decided to review something light-hearted and upbeat: Space Battle Lunchtime #2 from Oni Press. From the cover, which is actually quite beautiful in its own cartoony way, I had little expectations to actually enjoy this story. It seemed garish, juvenile, and lackluster. I could not have been more wrong. Writer, illustrator, and letterer Natalie Riess hypnotized me with a surprisingly compelling story, filled to the brim with vibrant characters and gorgeous art. And yes, the book does have some flaws, but they are paled in comparison to the overall quality.
To give a quick summary, this is a book about a human chef, Peony, and her trials through an intergalactic cooking competition television show, Space Battle Lunchtime (go figure). Just writing that, it seems like a silly premise, but there is more than meets the eye here.
After the contestants are given their unique mystery item, to be incorporated into their dish, Natalie immediately starts to breathe life story. Page after page, she uses the perfect balance of conflict, mystery, and achievement. By the end of the show, which is not the end of the issue, each character is uniquely mirrored to their dish; a perfect metaphor for their traits. It is so rare these days to be able to know which character is speaking just by the bubble, and not the art.
That is not saying that the art doesn’t help, though. Natalie is a tremendously talented cartoonist. Her panels are bright and vibrant, making the entire issue a blast to read. More technically, I give her big praise on uncluttered panels with a lot of backgrounds.
As I said earlier, there was one problem that I found, but it is easily fixed. There was no real motive for the hero, save for winning the show. While that is realistic, I am not sure it is powerful enough to entice readers until the end of the story. I would suggest to Natalie, for future issues, to start digging into who Peony is, what she wants, and what she needs; although, with the quality of writing in this issue, I suspect that she is already doing that.
To conclude, I loved this issue. In particular my favorite part of the was when Natalie started telling the story of Peony off camera. It was a terribly fun deviation. The art, writing, lettering, and paneling were excellent. So much so that I am going down to Mile High Comics and adding Space Battle Lunchtime to my pull list. I suggest you all do the same. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
SPACE BATTLE LUNCHTIME #2
(W/A/C/CA) Natalie Riess (@Snarlbear)
Publisher: Oni Press