Chew‘s premise is morbid, hilarious and delicious: in the near future, chicken has been outlawed in the United States because of an uncontrolled outbreak of avian flu. Or is it? Is it instead a gigantic governmental conspiracy? Regardless, chicken parts are now the hottest thing on the street, because as one characters observe: “You outlaw chicken, and only outlaws have chicken.” The FDA (minor quibble: why the FDA, and not the USDA?) is now in the vice business, cracking down on illicit chicken deals—and this isn’t even a metaphor for prostitution. It’s literally chickens, dude.
Enter Tony Chu. Tony Chu is a cibopathic police detective. He takes a bite of something, and he knows things. Psychic impressions of the life-cycle of the food flood him: the things done to the food, where the food came from, all of it. It’s bad enough when it comes to fruit and vegetables; eating meat is, uh, intense. (The one thing that doesn’t trigger his ability? Beets. Tony Chu eats a lot of canned beets.)
Then Tony discovers one day that his ability has unusual applications. You know. Should he, like, eat part of a perp. Or a murder victim.
And that’s when the FDA steps in: the agency, via Agent Mason Savoy, doesn’t so much recruit Chu as impress him into service.
Chew is instant love. It’s morbid, it’s hilarious, and it’s gorgeously drawn—Rob Guillory’s art is vibrant and fun, and it suits the tone of the story perfectly. John Layman’s writing and mildly perverse imagination make me swoon with delight. When I finished, I felt like a bouncy puppy who’d been given a good hit of crack: I was almost literally bouncing off the walls with impatience, wanting to read more of the story, and conducted a completely unsuccessful hunt for a copy of the second issue that didn’t cost an absurd amount of money, since it was sold out everywhere. I finally wheedled some good friends going to Comic Con to get me a copy of the first printing of issue #2. (Fear not, sports fans, the second printing of Issue #2 comes out on August 1, together with Issue #3.) I’m not much of a comic subscriber, but I’m going to do the Pee Dance of Impatience every month until I can get my copy. If you like comics, I really recommend picking up this title. If you don’t, but you enjoy morbid, smart, funny stories, I recommend you give this a try anyway. Chew: good for what ails you.