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Chef Yasmina and The Potato Panic | Review

Chef Yasmina and The Potato Panic coverChef Yasmina and The Potato Panic
Writer/artist: Wauter Mannaert
First Second; $14.99

Wauter Mannaert’s Chef Yasmina and The Potato Panic introduces us to 11-year-old Yasmina, whose interest in cooking is apparent not just in the fact that she packs elaborate gourmet lunches for her father every day and makes him equally elaborate gourmet dinners every night, but also in her very wardrobe: She wears a white jacket, apron and chef’s hat. All day. Every day.

She usually gets her all-vegetarian ingredients from Marco and Cyril, a constantly-bickering pair who have set up very different gardens side by side on land the city allowed them to use, and who are always at war with one another over their techniques. Marco prefers the all-natural approach, whereas Cyril is constantly spraying his garden with chemicals.

Yasmina complements what they give her with the occasional wild plant she picks on her way to and from school and, when she gets really desperate for a particular ingredient, the even more occasional piece of produce she pilfers from her mysterious upstairs neighbor, who has a mysteriously elaborate rooftop garden.

Things change for Yasmina—and, indeed, the whole town—one day when she finds Marco and Cyril’s gardens being dug up by heavy machinery. Apparently the land has been bought by a gruff businessman whose logo looks a little like two P’s above a couple of lines and a little like a skull, depending on how you look at it. He boasts of a plan to sell potato products in plastic bags that will take the world by storm.

And he’s right. Soon, everyone seems to be completely crazy about this new kind of potato chip…and to be acting rather crazy as well. In fact, everyone who eats the chips seems to start acting like a dog, for some reason. When Yasmina’s dad succumbs to the temptation and is also afflicted, it’s up to her and her gardener friends to figure out the mystery and save everyone.

Mannaert is a Belgian cartoonist probably best known to American audiences for 2018 release Weegee: Serial Photographer, which he illustrated but did not write. He has a thin, delicate, graceful line, and Chef Yasmina is told all in softly rounded, borderless panels that flow effortlessly into one another.

In addition to very strong character design, Mannaert builds several extremely compelling pages detailing Yasmina and her father’s apartment building—and the way in which the smell of fried potatoes carries—and some extremely interesting designs around the way in which the technology behind the irresistible-but-behavior-modifying potato products work.

It’s a quite beautifully told story featuring a compelling character and a fun, elaborate and only slightly silly plot.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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