Saturday, April 17, 2010

Chew Volume 1: Taster's Choice by John Layman and Rob Guillory

Chew Volume 1: Taster's ChoiceI was initially hesitant to pick up Chew when it was first released.  I had read many reviews about how great the first issue was and that it was the comic to watch, but I still resisted.  The same was true for issue number two and the two or three reprints of the first issue.  The third was released to even more praise, the first issue, now on it's fourth printing, was included in black and white at the end of a The Walking Dead issue, and that was fucking it.  Fine a-holes.  I will read your damn funny book, just enough with the bombardment.  I read it, and it was everything people said that it was.

As luck would have it, my local comic book store was out...massive hype and I found a comic store online that had the first three issues, and ordered them with a couple of other items.  I waited.  I kept waiting.  I double checked the tracking number from the postal service and supposedly the package had delivered two weeks prior.  I contacted the comic store, who refused to return my emails and in turn I will never order anything from them ever again and the USPS was not helpful at all.

I was then lucky enough to find the fourth printing of the first issue, my comic shop received the third issue again and the fourth had been released so I picked them up and found another retailer that happened to have the second issue and I was finally set.  *Check out .  It has tons of crazy items for very low prices.  I have placed three or four orders with them and they are very reliable.*  At that point, the first TPB was already up for pre-order and the final fifth issue in the Taster's Choice story arc had not even been released yet, but I did not want to trade-wait this series, and I am happy that I didn't.

Chew from Image Comics, written by John Layman and illustrated by Rob Guillory, is the story of Tony Chu who begins as a police detective and later becomes an FDA Special Crimes Division agent.  Tony has an incredible ability; he is a Cibopath.  Tony is able to receive a psychic impression from everything that he eats, meaning that he sees the path of the bees that have carried honey, an apple gives the impression of pesticides used and when it was picked, and meat...meat is another story that people do not want to generally know about.  His impressions from food work on everything except for beets, and Tony eats a lot of beets.

In Detective Chu's world, the onset of the bird flu pandemic has made all forms of poultry illegal and the FDA has become one of the most powerful branches of law enforcement.  Speakeasies have sprung up around the US, but instead of serving alcohol, these specialize in chicken dinners, chicken soup and other fowl dishes.  Illegal egg sales have replaced drugs as the lead money making trade on seedy street corners and it is up to Tony Chu and his impulsive partner John Colby to bring in all who break the law.

Tony and John eventually come across Special Agent Savoy of the FDA, who like Tony, is a Cibopath and through Savoy's cooperative intel, the detectives infiltrate an illegal chicken establishment where they are given permission to order a poultry dish, finish it and then follow through with the bust.  Once inside, Tony orders the chicken soup and with only one sip, he discovers that the chef had cut his finger slightly and through the miniscule amount of blood that made it into the soup, he determines that the chef is a serial killer who has killed eleven people.  Through the course of the story, John is severely injured and Tony ends up with Savoy at the FDA, where, consequently, his new boss Mike Applebee absolutely despises him.

Tony's new partner Savoy is an eccentric, well-spoken, monocled, very large man with extensive martial arts skills and seems to be the best of partners, but he has his own agenda that even Tony will not be allowed to impede.  The story hints at interplanetary grandeur and the slow realization that perhaps the US government had lied about the bird flu being the cause of the death of millions of people around the world.  There is the possible love interest, food critic Amelia Mintz, who is a saboscrivner or someone who can write so accurately about what she has eaten that those who read her column experience the actual sensation of taste...her writing allows Tony to experience the taste of food without the extreme psychic impressions.

Chew is so vastly different from anything that I have ever read, that I thought it would be much too silly for me and I honestly assumed the story would quickly fall apart.  That is not the case.  Well told, well thought out and as the grand story slowly unravels through the pages of the smaller arcs, I was hooked in a very good way.  It took me a while to come around to Rob Guillory's unique style of art, but now that I have become addicted to this book, I cannot see anyone else drawing this story.  Guillory's attention to detail can be missed through a quick read, but upon a more thorough look, the exaggerated proportions of the characters make sense and the level of visual storytelling is wonderful.

This book is obviously not for the feint of heart.  The story is about a man who receives psychic impressions from what he eats, and he works in the special crimes division of the can see where his abilities will inevitably take Tony Chu.  Still, an amazing book worthy of all of it's praise and for $9.99 for the first trade paperback, you can't go wrong.  The second collection is already up for pre-order at Amazon with an April 28, 2010 release date.  A very fun and infectious read.  I'm off to pick up issue number ten!


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