Heroes & Villains: ‘Mr. Butterchips Returns’, ‘Onion Skin’, ‘The Delicacy’

I am a man of many talents but being a competent cook is not one of them. It’s not that I never tried to cook, quite the contrary, I’m just not very good at it.

In my junior high home economics class that wasn’t CALLED home economics (something like contemporary living? I don’t know. If you were in junior high in Michigan in 1991, please reach out) my group successfully made a dish only to discover that the three eggs it required were not added at any point. We also made a pumpkin pie that came out of the oven with a giant, and inexplicable, scorch mark.

To date, I have mastered the boiling of water and the art of crockpottery. The crockpot being my absolute favorite since all that’s required it throwing the ingredients into it and then just waiting. Outside of forgetting to plug it in it is literally impossible to screw up.

This week we have a trio of tasty food themed comics to explore. I had previously lamented that I was having a bit of a comics famine, this week is most assuredly a feast.

Mr. Butterchips Returns

Regular readers of this column will be familiar with Alex Schumacher’s curmudgeonly capuchin Mr. Butterchips since the book won the coveted spot of my “Book of the Year” for 2020. The maniacal monkey was previously only glimpsed in monthly form but that all changed a couple of weeks ago!

The strip has now gone WEEKLY over on the SLG website and, for me, it’s appointment reading. I feel the character definitely is better served by a weekly format since…well, since the world at large keeps turning out material for Schumacher to spin into comic gold.

Wait, I said all the are food-related right? Well, I’ll just so have you know that butterchips are a variety of pickles!

Onion Skin
Edgar Camacho (W/A)
Top Shelf Productions

Out on May 25th from Top Shelf Productions is Onion Skin which is EASILY my favourite book of the year so far.

Here’s the blurb:

Rolando’s job was crushing his soul… and then it crushed his hand. Now he can barely get out of the house, marathoning TV and struggling to find meaning. Nera is a restless spirit who loves to taste everything life can offer, but sleeps in a broken-down food truck and can’t see a way to make her dreams come true. When their paths cross at a raucous rock show, the magical night seems to last forever. Together they throw caution to the wind, fix up the truck, and hit the road for a wild adventure of biker gangs, secret herbs, mystical visions, and endless possibilities.

But have they truly found the spice of life? Or has Rolando bitten off more than he can chew?

Onion Skin has fantastically intriguing non-linear narrative and frenetic art style that I was instantly taken with. Per the press release I received, Onion Skin made waves by “…winning Mexico’s first-ever National Young Graphic Novel Award, the book became a sensation in its native land…” I devoured the book in one sitting (see what I did there?) and can confirm that this book is worth the hype.

A big part of why I like doing this column is because of gems like this that have crossover appeal for non-comics readers. Onion Skin is a book that can be enjoyed by anybody.

The Delicacy
James Albon (W/A)
Top Shelf Productions

Rounding out our trifecta of food-themed books for the week is The Delicacy which will be out on June 8th, also from Top Shelf Productions.

Here’s the blurb:

Tulip and his brother Rowan have left the simple comforts of their remote Scottish island with a plan: to grow succulent, organic vegetables in an idyllic market garden, and to open a restaurant serving these wholesome culinary delights to the busy sprawl of London. The world of fine dining seems impossibly competitive… until they discover a deliriously scrumptious new species of mushroom. The dish brings diners in droves, catapulting their small restaurant to success beyond their wildest dreams. Now, pressured by the demands of a hungry city, Tulip is desperate to crack the secret of their new ingredient’s growth. But just how much will he sacrifice to feed his own insatiable ambition?

From the “Try it, you’ll like it” category comes James Albon’s The Delicacy. By that I mean, on paper this book does not seem to be something that would be in my wheelhouse. I normally wouldn’t classify myself as a picky eater but I am someone who eats the same meal every Friday night and my breakfast routine has been the same for longer than I care to say. But I stepped outside my comfort zone and was (once again) greatly rewarded for it.

The scope of Albon’s story is both grand in terms of its take on the world of London restaurants and intimate in its examination of the relationship between two brothers. His artwork is warm and vibrant and he excels at conveying characters emotions via facial expressions and body language.

Throughout its 300 pages The Delicacy takes a couple of legitimately surprising turns that I was not prepared for and that made me enjoy the book all the more.

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