Big League CHEW . . . . .
CHEW #2 (Image) “Taster’s Choice” Part 2 of 5 by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Well, it looks like Image Comics scores a breakout hit with CHEW judging by the demand for this book at area comics shops, which were caught off guard and sold out quickly. I, for one, am glad to see that.
While I don’t pick up many Image books I can’t help but notice the many Previews listings month after month for numerous new titles. You have to give them credit for trying to help so many start-up ventures into comic book publishing. And even if the creators are willing to overlook a big paycheck in order to get their books rolling, the production costs that Image incurs each month must be huge. I may be naive but I think it’s good for the industry to see some other publishers besides Marvel and DC score now and again on the Previews best sellers list.
I had my eye on this book but wasn’t planning to pick up the single issues. I decided to wait it out, make sure the hype and buzz were justified, and then order it up nice and neat in a single collection and make a full meal of it. But then my friend Dan asked me to see if I could pick up a copy of CHEW #1 and #2 since his local shop didn’t have any. I became curious when I called my regular shop and found out that Issue #1 was sold out. I also happened to be working in Lancaster, PA last Wednesday so I stopped in The Comics Shop only to discover that CHEW #2 was already sold out by 2 p.m. - - on the first day it was scheduled to hit the stores! They also had no copies of Issue #1 and advised me to wait for the second printing, which has already been completed and on its way.
After picking up my saved copy of Issue #2 at Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, DE I browsed their new titles rack and saw just one copy left of CHEW #2. What do you think I did? Right - - I suddenly became impulsive and picked that one up also, even though Dan offered to let me read his copy before I turned it over to him. I’ve been infected by the CHEW hysteria! I guess I drank the Kool-Aid - - or more appropriately, gnashed and swallowed the worm.
But, enough digression. Let’s find out if the interest in this book is justified. (If you’re still with me, I thank you for your patience.) Yes, CHEW is good and different, quirky and fun - - it takes a light-hearted approach to criminal investigation and pokes fun at the restaurant business and big government at the same time. The horrific elements and dark tone of the book are muted by the humor, which makes a delightful blend - - easy to swallow and digest. (Gulp!) Simply, CHEW tastes good.
The credits page synopsis of Issue #1 brought me up to date and I had no difficulty following the events of Issue #2. Main character Tony Chu leaves his job as a Philly vice cop after it’s learned that he has a unique ability and get recruited by the F.D.A. - - yes, the same Food & Drug Administration that inspects restaurants and puts stickers in their windows - - but in this universe they have massive S.H.I.E.L.D.-like (or H.A.M.M.E.R.-like, to keep things current) power and authority. Tony is a Cibopath (right, you won’t find it in the dictionary but it does sound convincing, doesn’t it?) - - a person able to get psychic impressions, information and identification from whatever he eats. Naturally, this is a big assist to investigation when hacked-off fingers and other members are found on crime scenes.
Tony Chu is a likeable, mild-mannered young man with an agreeable nature that gets taken advantage of by Mike Applebee (restaurant names are bound to creep into this title), his hard-nosed obnoxious new boss at the F.D.A., as well as his new partner Agent Savoy. Chu and Savoy take on their first assignment together to investigate a fast-food joint, where some body parts found their way into the burgers, and look for mob connections.
Agent Savoy immediately assumes a mentor role with Chu and is an overbearing but friendly, large well-dressed man incredibly nimble (and ninja-skilled) for someone of his girth. I also find him likeable in the same way that I used to like Dum Dum Dugan (before he went Skrull).
This is the first time I have encountered John Layman’s work and he is a very good writer. It takes a certain skill level to tell something as outrageous as this and pull it off. (Similar to how the movie Pulp Fiction starts to make sense and pulls you into the story, making you like it in spite of the lurid content and wacko subject matter). The art by newcomer Rob Guillory is perfect for this type of story, with just the right touch of humor in the illustrations to help make it work. It’s a style that reminds me of elements of Michael Avon Oeming, as well as Humberto Ramos - - but none more so than Harvey Kurtzman (who could also make the ridiculous seem believable and likeable).
Hey, it’s a good book and I encourage you to taste it.