Chew, vol. 5

Chew 5Summary: Tony Chu – the cibopathic federal agent with the ability to get psychic impressions from what he eats – has been kidnapped! He was ambushed, knocked out, brought to a remote location, and bound securely. His captor intends to feed Tony from a menu of his choosing, to find out what Tony can see, in order to learn from him. His daughter, Olive, has been kidnapped for the exact same reason. Two kidnappers, two captives, and two very different outcomes. Presenting the fifth storyline of the New York Times bestselling, Harvey and multiple Eisner Award-winning series about cops, crooks, cooks, cannibals, clairvoyants – and kidnappers!

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Chew, vol. 5, by John Layman and Rob Guillory 7.75

When I first discovered ‘Chew’, I was immediately impressed with it: it was original, quirky, funny, high-energy and the art was stellar. As the series wore on, the novelty wore off and the co-authors seemed to be having a difficult time moving the story along. The series became more episodic, less focused than it had the past.

So I gave it a rest for a little while, took a break and read other things.

It’s been a year and a half since I last read ‘Chew’ (how time flies) and it looks like a lot has changed for Chu, and for ‘Chew’. With respect to Chu, at this point, he’s gotten fired from the FDA and becomes a parking cop. At first a superstar, things go awry when his gf’s ex comes up with a strange ploy involving deceased baseball players and a salacious tell-all book.

Don’t ask.

Meanwhile, Mason Savoy has kidnapped Chu’s daughter in order to do tests on her, to see the extent of her own powers – thinking that she is the most powerful cybopath he’s ever seen. Colby, Chu’s ex-partner, is stuck at the USDA, working under a ball-busting supervisor who hates his guts. And he’s partnered with a bionic lion he doesn’t like.

As per usual, ‘Chew’ has a warped sense of humour; it never takes itself too seriously, and can be slightly macabre or just plain weird. One perfect example is that the traffic division Chu is sent to wear kilts and a helmet with a red light on top. Another is how Colby’s only means by which to placate his bosses is to sleep with them – and he’s okay with that.

But what would one expect from a series that centers on characters with food-based powers? Even the villains are eccentric: for instance, a coffee shop barista who can implant suggestions in people’s coffees, or a man who can sculpt chocolate into functional gadgets and weapons – even laser guns. But only with chocolate. Nothing else.

Layman doesn’t just have offbeat ideas, he has a knack for structure, throwing us back and forth in the story in a truly coherent and imaginative way. He also knows when to provide exposition to keep new readers abreast of the current situation without making it redundant for those who are already on the up-and-up. He’s pretty good.

Similarly, Guillory is quite adept at penciling just about anything. And he doesn’t skimp on the details, either: you have to scan the page for little details that Guillory slipped into the picture, such as little notes and posters. He also seems to have a weird sense of humour, because a lot of the little touches that inserts are quite wacky.

The art is cartoony, but in a stylish, pleasing manner. It’s funny because there’s lots of detail all over the page, and yet it’s also quite clear that Guillory doesn’t bother to finesse everything: often proportions or angles are dependent on the size of the panel he needs to wedge his characters into. Still, I love his style and obvious exuberance.

‘Chew’ is no longer fresh, but it retains some of its long-lasting flavour. It’s a series that goes down easy and that satisfies on a somewhat superficial level. But when you want something light and totally off the beaten path (i.e. not the rehashed DC and Marvel superhero tripe), then you could do a heck of a lot worse than with ‘Chew’.

I look forward to getting another taste.

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