Saturday, December 10, 2016

REVIEW: Space Battle Lunchtime, Volume One: Lights, Camera Snacktion! (graphic novel, vol. 1) by Natalie Riess

Space Battle Lunchtime is a sci-fi cooking/baking graphic novel.


The little cafe Peony works at gets a strange new customer, a woman who looks a bit like a frog. The woman, Zonda, suddenly has to get a new contestant for her cooking show, and Peony seems like the best available choice on such short notice. Peony agrees to go with her, not realizing that Zonda is really an alien and that the cooking show, Space Battle Lunchtime, literally has viewers all over the galaxy.

Contestants on SBL are given mystery ingredients that they have to turn into foods (savory or sweet) the judges will like. Peony is the first human who's ever been on the show, the ingredients and kitchen tools are completely unfamiliar to her, and she doesn't even know how to use her kitchen appliances. Still, she'll try her best (and Zonda will get fired if she doesn't). Unfortunately, her best might not be good enough as one of her fellow contestants tries to sabotage her and the others.

I bought this after I heard that it was cute and had a sweet potential f/f romance in it. And, oh, I loved it. The colors are bright, pretty, and fit the overall feel of the story well. I enjoyed the artwork, and the story itself was a lot of fun. I've already flipped through the volume a couple times since finishing it, just to pore over some of the panels more.

Peony was so determined and sweet. She made it through the first few rounds not just because she was good at baking, but also because she was good at making friends. I enjoyed seeing what she and her fellow contestants would manage to come up with, and the little moments of drama on the show were fun. Chef Melonhead had been on the show before and really, really wanted to win, enough that he didn't particularly care how obvious his attempts to sabotage the other contestants were, but his lack of ability to get along with others also caused him problems in the end.

My favorite dramatic moment on the show was probably the bit where an effort to sabotage Peony accidentally resulted in sabotaging another contestant. I probably shouldn't have laughed at what happened to the poor judge, but I couldn't help it. Here's hoping they get hazard pay.

The potential romance between Peony and Neptunia was incredibly sweet. They first met when Neptunia caught Peony as she was about to trip and fall, and it seemed like pretty much every scene had at least one little moment where one or the other of them got to blush over something. Whereas Peony was sweet and friendly, Neptunia was quiet, serious, and not immediately inclined to trust Peony. Peony and Neptunia's reactions after the teamwork portion of the show were wonderful. I have little hearts drawn throughout my notes for this volume, and almost all of them are for a Peony + Neptunia scene (one is for Peony's cute costume).

Overall, this was light and fluffy fun, the occasional mentions of SBL's rival show, Cannibal Coliseum, notwithstanding. There were so many fun little details, like the SBL crew's “to do” lists, characters' reaction shots, and the octopus-like camera operator. My only regret about reading this volume now is that the second one isn't out yet and this one ends in a cliffhanger.

  • One-page backstory comics. There's one for Neptunia, Melonhead, Jacques, Owline, Meatabax, and Cherisa. I loved these, although I wish one had been included for Peony too. My favorite was the one for Jacques. Little crustaceans eating with chopsticks, so cute.
  • A couple pages about Riess' comic creation process.
  • A page of cover sketches.
  • Space Battle Lunch Bugs – a reimagining of the main characters as bugs, mostly (I think Zorp is a sea urchin).
  • A page of color illustrations of space foods. My favorites are the pizza orb and the gelatin thing.
  • A one-page comic of the main characters answering the question “how do you like your coffee?” Peony is still adorable, and Neptunia is still disinclined to chat.
  • One page of random sketches.

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