Comic Review: Finger-Lickin’ Good – ‘Chew’ by John Layman
Review by Comix
Tony Chu has a problem. Anytime he gets a bit hungry, his choices are beet juice and…. beet juice. You see, Mr. Chu has what the comic coined as cibopathy, a power that gives him a psychic impression from any food that he takes a taste from. He can see where the food came from, who handled it, how it was handled, including anything else the food has come in contact with. For some reason, the only thing this power doesn’t work with is beets. Such is the world of Chew, where a man can’t even take a bite of a delicious hamburger without feeling the hands of Death through the thoughts and fears of the poor cow that was smashed and mashed to make his lunch. Of course, this makes him a prime detective, where his strange ability is used on anything from bullets to bodies to solve cases other officers have given up on. But, unfortunately, that leaves the beets. Lots and lots of beets, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
This continuing series begins in the simple times of an alternative future, where chicken and other bird meat has been banned following a world wide bird-flu epidemic that has claimed the lives of millions across the globe. Tony Chu is a detective for the Philly Police Department and has been assigned the case of solving the growing problem of black market chicken smuggling. He manages to get himself a bowl of devious chicken soup so that he could ‘see’ where it came from only to find out that the chef himself had been killing people and using them as chicken substitute! My goodness, what sort of fowl trickery is this?! Not only that, but the chef had already killed himself and left a trail of clues straight to biggest the mystery of Chu’s life! How did all that chicken make it over the border and why did it really get banned? An adventure of edible proportions, Chu embarks on a mission of murder, mobs, frog/chicken hybrids, alien berries, and the true reason behind the bird flu.
Published by Image comics, Chew has been a hilarious and outrageous read from the first page to the last panel. Though not really horror, it does fall pretty accurately into the supernatural/weird category. I love the idea of a power where you can see exactly where anything has been just by tasting it. In fact, the whole comic is chock full of people with weird powers such as Saboscrivner, a person who can write so accurately about food that the person who is reading the description can literally taste the food on their tongues; or a Voresoph, a person who becomes smarter the more he eats. I’m not sure what’s up with food theme, probably some kind of statement on obesity in America, but it sure makes for a great comic. Never to take itself too seriously, Chew pokes fun at hard-boiled mystery-supernatural comics while still presenting a solid story with nicely placed twists to keep you on your toes.
The creator of the comic, John Layman has had a very solid career in the comic industry, most notably working for Marvel and DC’s (now defunct) Wildstorm. Luckily, through the graces of Image Comics, he has had the chance to bring his own original content to comics, not just superhero fluff. His other comic, Puffed, about the life of an amusement park worker who beaten and dumped in the ghetto-est of the ghetto areas, has been received as “absolutely ridiculous,” something he continues in the Chew comic. The art of Chew, brought by Rob Guillory, is also very fitting to the writing, punctuating each joke with sharp colors and a pop, indy-style art. Though this is his first foray into the major comic scene, he has already gained notoriety when the book picked up two Eagle Awards and an Eisner Award. That’s like Emmys for comics and this duo took this comic all the way to the bank.
The series has just crossed the issue #27 line and has several trades of the back-issues ready to be snatched up by your chicken grubbing hands. Though each story arc is technically independent of other ones, I suggest reading them in order just get the overall gist of the story. Besides, it’s a seriously fun read, so you wouldn’t want to miss any of the high-octane, belly-aching laughs anyway. Also, being the active comic that it is, feel free to run out and grab each new issue as it’s being released, with Chew #28 coming out in the next week.