This article took me a while to properly digest, pun intended. I don’t think that there is a comic series that I’ve re-read as many times as I have with Chew. Over 60 issues John Layman and Rob Guillory take readers on one of the most creative, food-inspired, heartbreaking rides in all of comics. With the series recently wrapping up, I wanted to take a few minutes to share my thoughts on one of my favorite series of the last 5 years. I’m going to try to keep from diving into spoiler territory too much, but consider this your warning.
What you need to know.
Tony Chu is a a police officer, he’s also a Cibopath. That means whenever he eats something he can tell you its history. Like say he eats an apple. He can tell you about the tree it came from the chemicals that were used on it etc. Or he could eat a hamburger and get an entirely different experience. This isn’t a spoiler. Oh also there was some sort of Avian Flu plague that killed millions of people around the world and now Chicken is illegal. This is the world that we’re introduced to in the first issue. Before I forget, Beets. Beets are the one food that Tony can eat that don’t cause his powers to manifest. That plays a seemingly important role throughout the series.
Tony isn’t alone in his food-related powers and as the series progresses we are introduced to a cornacopia of characters, each with their own unique abilities. Wikipedia lists 29 different ones, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are actually more. These include the ability to tell stories through food, make functioning weapons out of chocolate or become super strong by eating specific foods. When we start out Tony tries to hide his abilities, but by the end of the first issue his ability becomes known and actually lands him a job with the FDA, which is now the most powerful organization in the U.S.
The over-arching story line is Tony trying to find out what caused the Avian Flu, or if it was even real as chicken prohibition is an issue around the globe with many people thinking that the government is hiding the truth. He’s joined in this crusade by John Colby, Chu’s partner on the police force who eventually joins him at the FDA and Mason Savoy, another cibopath who has other food-related abilities as well. Together and separately these three travel the globe searching for information about the plague that among others killed Savoy’s wife.
That’s as much as I can get into without spoiling any major plot points. Let’s just say that nearly everything and everyone we are introduced to in the series is connected in one form or another. I mentioned at the start of the article that I’ve re-read this series quite a few times now. A big reason for this is that there are so many details that you can’t get it all in one reading.
What makes Chew so good.
One of the things that I really like about Chew is that they knew, seemingly from day one, that this was going to be a 60 issue run. That meant they were able to map out the story and have everything wrap up nicely. Also there weren’t any issues that were “filler” for lack of a better term. Layman and Guillory working together on the whole series was also a huge plus in my opinion. I think that the best comic series come when the writer and the artist get to have a long run together. This doesn’t mean that this is the best for every comic series, but it really works well here as the story and the art compliment each other so well. I think it would have been really jarring if this would have changed somewhere during the run.
Speaking of the art, this series has a style that is all its own. It has a very distinct feel but the portrayal of each of the characters is unique. I really liked that each of them got kind of their own “color scheme” to work with. Plus the little puns, jokes and food references that are dropped in throughout the book. Man I swear every issue has at least 4-5 “Easter Eggs”.
All good things must come to an end, and I wasn’t as sad as I thought I would be after reading the last issues of Chew. Not giving anything away, but to me it felt like they left the door wide open for a spin off. Also apparently there is an animated film in the works starring Felicia Day and David Tennant. So I’ve got that to look forward to someday. If you’re looking for a very funny comic with great art and an amazing story, I’d definitely recommend Chew.
That’s it from me. What do you think? Have you read Chew? Let me know in the comments.
Image from imagecomics.com