Aging veteran and ne’er-do-well Rocky Granger has two problems. First: Rock’s fledgling taco truck business isn’t funded by a small business loan, or even by his wealthy, disapproving father. Rock owes money to the Bardem Brothers, whose food truck… cartel?… dominates the Portland food truck scene. The Bardem Brothers aren’t above using violence to protect their investments, hence the second problem: it turns out Rock is absolutely terrible at running a food truck, and there’s no way he can pay back the Bardems.
Rock and the Bardems strike a deal. Rock will work off his debt, drawing on his ex-military background to run jobs for the Bardems. His first task is to track down a rogue food truck, the pirate-themed “SS Dim Sumthing,” which has been hedging in on the Bardems’ turf. Rock reluctantly accepts the job and, almost as reluctantly, a partner in crime. A young woman, Harper Marbury, has been squatting in his food truck to escape the chaotic Portland commune she calls home. Harper has her own secrets, but she’s not afraid of a fight—and she can make a mean taco.
Short Order Crooks blends the food industry fabulism of Robin Sloan’s Sourdough with a tongue-in-cheek noir sensibility. Christopher Sebela’s tight script delivers a fun adventure story, drawing both on the Portland food scene and the primacy of food and cooking in our lives and relationships. Rock and Harper forge an alliance by learning to share a kitchen, a partnership that requires trust and vulnerability. It’s fun to watch these characters bring out the best in one another; their friendship gives this story a lot of heart.
This book will make you hungry. Full-color art by George Kambadais and Lesley Atlansky rises to the challenge of giving cooking scenes the same visual interest as action sequences—in fact, the kitchen scenes were my favorite part of the book. Short Order Crooks even features recipes between chapters, with annotations and asides that make them an integral part of the story. (They look so good that I’m tempted to make them an integral part of my kitchen.)
Where Short Order Crooks’ vision fell slightly flat for me was its worldbuilding and atmosphere. “Food truck criminals” is such a zany premise. I wanted a bit more drama from the Bardems and their nefarious food truck empire, and more surreal touches on par with the Bardems’ pirate food truck nemesis. Possibly I just wanted more in general; Short Order Crooks is published as a standalone title, but it reads like the first volume of a series. My guess is that the creators are hoping to publish additional volumes and further develop this world, but without a clear promise of a sequel, I would have preferred this book to feel more self-contained.
Short Order Crooks nevertheless serves up an entertaining romp, one that pairs unusual flavors in a fresh-feeling creative recipe. I’d recommend it to fans of lighter action comics—think a slightly less silly Unbeatable Squirrel Girl or Delilah Dirk. Mature language and depictions of alcoholism and tobacco use make this title best for adults and older teens, but the violence depicted is relatively tame.
Short Order Crooks
By Christopher Sebela
Art by George Kambadais
Oni Press, 2021
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Character Representation: Addiction