Book Review

Chew Issue #1 by John Layman and Rob Guillory

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Title: Chew
Author: John Layman (Author) and Rob Guillory (Artist)
Publication Info: Image Comics June 2009
Genre: Comic

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.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Maili says:

    Damn it. Only last night I promised myself not to buy any more comics and graphic novels. This sounds too good to resist, so am breaking the vow.

  2. 2
    Kalen Hughes says:

    I’m disturbed . . . and I think I must have this (maybe because I’m just plain disturbed?). I spend way too much time and money over at Things From Another World (love the Firefly comics and the Steam Punk series Ignition City).

    Awwww, man. Chew #1 & #2 are sold out!

  3. 3
    Chicklet says:

    I think I’m going to save myself the bother of the pee-pee dance and wait for the run to be gathered into a book. Bonus: Easier storage!

  4. 4
    Jennifer Spiller says:

    i think it would be FDA.  They are an enforcement agency already.  They hire criminal justice majors and have a fleet of lawyers who prosecute cases.  (My Father-in-Law was an FDA Attorney for 30 years).

    I do not like chicken.  Wonder if making it illegal would make it taste better?

  5. 5
    Mama Nice says:

    This sounds so intensely bizarre!

    Why, why did my brain cook up a scene in which he eats some cucumber and discovers just why his gal pal always has a few in the fridge?

  6. 6
    Hannah says:

    why the FDA, and not the USDA?

    If you read a few books (one or two minimum) on the state of food and food production in America today, you’ll find that the USDA can’t enforce food regulations. Sorta like the difference between the legislative and the executive branches.

  7. 7
    Candy says:

    Kalen: Issues 1, 2 and 3 are all being (re-)released tomorrow. So head over to your favorite comic store and grab them.

    To everybody who explained why the FDA and not the USDA: it’s not just a question of enforcement power, because Congress can give that kind of mandate to the agency, it’s a question of jurisdiction. Currently, FDA has jurisdiction on almost all food products except meat and eggs from domesticated animals—jurisdiction for that falls under the ambit of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. But! Jurisdiction gets très screwy once you get into genetically engineered animals, because if they’re used to produce medicines (like transgenic goats that produce some kind of protein used for medical purposes in their milk), the USDA and the FDA both have their fingers in the pie.

    Ultimately, Congress can pretty much tell agencies to do what Congress sees fit, so conceivably, it could’ve delegated responsibility to the FDA—I mean, hell, in this future scenario, they banned chicken.

  8. 8
    SonomaLass says:

    the Pee Dance of Impatience

      *snort*

    Candy, I think I love you.  (But not, I swear, in a real stalkery way!)  I think I must have these for the home collection—it’s enough to make me miss having in-laws, because there’s no one to be shocked by what I keep out on the coffee table.

    @Kalen—Is Ignition City good?  I’m looking for some new steampunk for the DP, and that’s one with which he’s not familiar.

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