Slush Pile: Wonton Soup, 3 Knights in India, Iraq, Scrapyard Detectives

All books covered are complimentary copies provided by the publisher.

Wonton Soup

Wonton Soup cover

by James Stokoe, Oni Press, $11.95 US

I’m not a fan of the art style (which you can check out for yourself in this extensive preview). It’s similar to that used by Brandon Graham (Escalator) and Corey Lewis (Sharknife). (The three call themselves the YOSH Collective.) I find it too busy, crowded, and frenetic. Energy is a virtue, but not at the expense of everything else. I wanted more white space, more depth, less fatigue.

I liked the idea, of a space trucker who loves experimental cooking, but it was too hard for me to read. I know there are reviewers who say things like “Space ninjas! Wow! Bam! What more do you need?”, but I’m looking for different things.

3 Knights in India

3 Knights in India cover

by John Steventon, HappyGlyphs Comics, $12.49 US

Collects a simplified webcomic that also appeared as a weekly strip in the India Post newspaper. A New Jersey family goes to India for the wife’s sister’s wedding. It’s primarily a travelogue, with underlying suburban comedy. If needed, the art switches from comic-style to illustrated text to better explain a story or cultural location.

As expected from its origin, most of the pages are stand-alone incidents, single-page comic strips. And it takes a while for the book to get to the point, with an early twenty pages introducing the family before the trip to India is established and another 35 before the trip starts. (The whole book is only 148 pages, including extra editorial material.) Serious subjects — like how parents of one culture will feel about their child marrying someone from another — are raised, only to be brushed aside with a punchline.

My favorite part, given my current interests, was the 12-page cookbook at the back. That’s followed by author’s notes in which he describes an extended version of the story that sounds more interesting than what we have here, including visiting an Indian community in NJ and how to prepare for such an overseas trip. I would have rather he’d taken those different choices. I was also hoping for less generic family comedy, more unique observations of the trip itself. Plus, it would have been nice to have actually seen the wedding that was the driving incident of the book.

The author’s aim is to serve as a kind of cultural ambassador, and he does a good job, although a light-hearted and superficial one.

Iraq: Operation Corporate Takeover

by Sean Michael Wilson and Lee O’Connor, War on Want, $10 US

A young man returns to his home in Iraq after years in London, and he and his family talk about the ways big companies have ruined his country. The source of this book is an anti-poverty charity based in London that wants to convey “the exploitative role of corporations in Iraq.” That tells the reader that it’s a publication intended to proselytize to others, not tell a story. The problem with such books is that they’re usually only seen by those who already agree with the points being made.

In this particular comic, the characters tell each other statistics when they’re not observing atrocities committed by soldiers. I’m sure it’s all accurate, but … why should someone buy a comic to be lectured at? Plus, the oddities of the faces — the ways they’re slightly off — detract from the serious message. There’s a page of “what you can do” in the back, a nice touch, but it’s UK-focused, as expected given the source.

The Scrapyard Detectives

The Diversity Foundation, $5 US

Another book for a good cause, only this one is teaching kids about the value of teamwork and diversity, a subject and audience better suited. The single issues (#1-3 collected here) were given to schools and libraries free of charge, with over 70,000 given out since the project started in 2003. Now there’s a full-color book they’re selling at minimal cost to raise more funds to give away more comics. It’s suitable for kids and crafted with experience. Bill Galvan’s art is straightforward and easy to read.

The detectives are Robert, a black kid with great inventive skills; Raymond, who’s Hispanic; and Jinn, an Asian girl in a wheelchair. In the first story, they welcome the new family to the neighborhood. They face vandalism because they’re different, and the kids try to find out who’s behind it. The ending was genuinely surprising, and it’s good to see that they don’t minimize or sugar-coat the problems of intolerance.

The second story features a kid too obsessed with being an American hero to appreciate different ethnic heritages. It leads into a thrilling life-saving adventure and some snazzy detective work. In the third, the kids split up, with one trying to find out why a fellow football team member has become withdrawn, while the others look for a petty thief. There’s also a bonus origin story, featuring a skateboarding Jinn (although what put her in the chair isn’t explained).

If the stories seem a little calculated, well, it’s for a good cause, and the younger the reader, the less likely they’ve seen the formula before. It’s wonderful seeing a young black man presented as such a genius in what’s a great book for kids.

9 Responses to “Slush Pile: Wonton Soup, 3 Knights in India, Iraq, Scrapyard Detectives”

  1. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Jan. 14, 2008: You may start your interrogation Says:

    […] Johanna Draper Carlson on a variety of new and recent […]

  2. John Steventon Says:

    Hi Johanna,

    Thanks for taking the time to review my book, 3 Knights in India. I appreciate your feedback, and thank you for taking the time to review the book.

    Let me know how those recipes come out, eh?

    Cheers, JOHN :0)

  3. John Says:

    I went to look at the preview for Won Ton, since it piqued my interest and thought I would like to see it for myself, but I found the art depressingly amateurish. Requiring some training now qualifies as an art style? Sheesh.

  4. Sean Michael Wilson Says:

    Despite johanna’s negative opinion those who may want to check out the IRAQ: OPERATION CORPORATE TAKEOVER book can have a look at the publisher site.

    And my own blog has images and info about it, since I confess to being the lecturing writer of this book!

  5. Johanna Says:

    Oh, I always encourage people to check things out for themselves if they’re interested — that’s why I provided that same link (on the publisher’s name). Mine’s just one opinion.

  6. John Steventon Says:

    For those interested, I would like to provide updated information about 3 Knights in India.

    The book is being offered for $11.49, a dollar off the cover price, at and at

    Also, the original comic books are available at my site for only $1.00, while supplies last! This is a very affordable way to preview the graphic novel, as well as get some extras.

    And the first chapter is a free download at the lulu link mentioned above, for a limited time. (A new free offering is coming soon!)

    Thanks for your interest, and thank you again,Johanna, for the review!

    Cheers, JOHN :0)

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    […] folks behind the Scrapyard Detectives want […]

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