Chew review – by Lauren Bryant
What do cops, food, cannibalism, superpowers, and chicken all have in common? To the average person, this question most likely sounds quite bizarre. But as puzzling and as counterintuitive as this combination may seem, throwing all these things into a blender has created something that is far from average. John Layman and Rob Guillory’s Chew may be one of the strangest comics you’ll read, but I promise you it’s worth every page. Why, you ask? Well, let’s dive right in!
As a warning, this comic is kinda gross. If you’re not a fan of dead bodies and people eating repulsive things, you might want to tread carefully here. Let me explain. Tony Chu is a cop and a cibopath, meaning that whenever he eats something, he gets psychic impressions of its past. While this may sound cool, this “gift” makes eating most things (like meat) pretty torturous. Despite this inconvenience, Chu does not let his power go to waste. After he uses his ability to solve a case (in an imaginably gory manner), he is recruited by the Food and Drug Administration. But this is not the FDA we know. In the Chew universe, the FDA is the most powerful law enforcement agency in the world, as a result of a massive bird flu epidemic which led to the prohibition of poultry. And the FDA has a lot of work to do. The comic follows Chu’s adventures as he deals a host of weird, mysterious people and circumstances.
Chew is not carried by its outlandish nature alone. Its art and writing both play major roles in making the series as a whole enjoyable to read. John Layman does a wonderful job of writing interesting, relatable characters. Tony Chu is joined by a host of allies and enemies that are each fascinating in their own way. Tony is a serious, law-abiding cop who is dedicated to his job, but who struggles with connecting emotionally with his family. He is balanced out by his lax partner-in-crime-fighting John Colby and Tony’s love interest, the cheery food columnist Amelia Mintz. The villains are also intriguing, with mysterious motivations and the occasional moral ambiguity. Even characters who seem minor are woven into the story, reappearing when you least expect them, proving that Layman has put much forethought into everything he writes. He also does a wonderful job of balancing the serious and the silly, making the series both hilarious and heart-wrenching. As a result, the reader is left anxiously awaiting each new issue to see where the story goes.
The art that Rob Guillory does for the series also shines. His style is exaggerated and gritty, perfectly matching the tone and theme of the comic. His character designs are all distinctive, creating a strong sense of character recognizability that is essential to the reader’s ability to follow the story. There is a certain grotesque beauty to the composition of pages and the designs of the cover art that makes it powerful to behold. He also follows Layman’s lead of adding a dash of silliness to the comic, throwing in funny quips on signs and posters in the background whenever possible that encourage you to absorb everything on the page.
Overall, Chew is a wild journey that is a pleasure to read. The harmony of the writing and art make a bizarre concept work, and the result is captivating. While the series is entering its endgame, it’s never too late to jump in and enjoy the insanity, so grab a copy and start reading.