Some highly unique science fiction here… I picked up on James Stekoe via a lead in the back of an issue of Brandon Graham‘s King City. The story here is about a promising culinary student who drops out of school, becomes a space trucker, and travels around the universe in search of the ultimate recipes, with lots of time out for things like spaceship breakdowns and fights with space ninjas. Graham and Stekoe (at least for me) are the primary proponents in modern comics of a sort of alien xenophilia that reminds me of early Heavy Metal (and I’m probably thinking strongly here of Moebius & Matt Howarth…) There’s not a lot of sustained narrative here – this is mostly episodic incidents, revolving largely around explaining some completely bonkers alien recipe. Consequently, it is a breezy read and continuously entertains with off-the-wall ideas (penny postcard version: Hunter S Thompson meets Han Solo?)
The two volumes are in the wonky “manga-sized” format of 5″x7″x1/2″, and all in black & white, so my only real complaints here are purely technical. Compared to Stekoe’s later color work in Orc Stain, the art in Wonton Soup can get pretty obscure especially when dealing with something totally alien – the monotone makes some novel depictions difficult to resolve without some effort. [Edit: Stekoe needs to learn how to draw the reader’s eye to what’s important, rather than filling up the page with lines.] Also, the tiny page size & thick spine means that half of the art is obscured either down into the crease or by your hand holding the page. Oh well.
Both from the venerable Oni Press – vol 2 is still in print, but vol 1 is sadly out of print :(