"Chew: Volume 1 - Taster's Choice" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Originally published as Chew #1 - 5
Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory
2009, 128 pages
Trade Paperback released on November 25th, 2009
Sometimes detective work can be so hard. You have to look for clues and interrogate suspects and then there's all that paperwork. Wouldn't it be great if there was just an easier way? Like if you could bite into a murder victim and see a vision of the killer in your mind? That's how Tony Chu solves crime. Chu is a cibopath. I'll let author John Layman explain that.
"He can take a bite of an apple, and get a feeling in his head about what tree it grew from, what pesticides were used on the crop, and when it was harvested. Or he could eat a hamburger and flash onto something else entirely."
Tony Chu lives in a world that is similar to our own except the bird flu that came and went in the headlines here stayed on and killed millions in his world. As a result, all poultry has been banned and just like during Prohibition, black market operations have started up to sell real chicken. Due to this fowl dealing (See what I did there?), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has become the most powerful organization in the world, answering to no one. You can see how Chu's unique ability can be of use to the FDA in its ongoing investigations. Chu is partnered with Mason Savoy, a fellow cibopath and seemingly well-mannered giant. Savoy shows Chu the ropes and they go out to solve some cold cases.
That's the basic premise of Chew, only with a lot more ingestion of dead things. I lost count of the amount of times a dead body was bit into, crunched or licked in this book. That's all part of the charm of Chew, though. The book has a very lighthearted feel to it while it's dealing with such gruesome scenes as a man getting his ear ripped off Mike Tyson-style.
The art by Rob Guillory is a little cartoony. Everyone has very tiny legs and feet and are often positioned rather awkwardly. The whole style gives the book a feel that's just slightly off, yet very fun, which fits the way the story flows in each issue perfectly. While the pencils have a very unreal look to them, you're not going to turn a page and see a giant gun with multiple pouches and shoulder pads being pulled out of nowhere like you're in a Rob Liefeld comic in the early '90s. It's not that kind of book.
This trade paperback collects the first five issues of the series. Also included are original sketches of Chu and Savoy as well as translations of some Russian dialogue that appears in the fourth issue. I don't know if this was included in the single issues, but it's cool to have as it gives us some more info and was a relief to me because I hate when books toss out words in another language out of the blue.
I really don't know what to expect from Chew going forward because I've never seen anything like it. The closest I can compare it to would be the seriousness and cop story from CSI with the sometimes disgusting art style and quirky humor of Ren & Stimpy. I can assure you though that any book that features a guy getting a butcher knife to the head, a Yakuza gang battle, a bikini-clad Russian chick wielding a machine gun and a French terrorist group vomiting their brains out is definitely worth checking out.