Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chew Volume 1: Taster's Choice

Chew is a surprise hit comic book series that began in 2009. It stars detective Tony Chu who harbors a secret: he is a cibopath, a person who can get psychic impressions from whatever he eats. When he eats an apple he can tell what pesticides were used on it as well as when it was harvested. When he eats meat he gets more gruesome images, including how the animal was raised and how it was slaughtered. Because of his abilities, he tends to eat little but the only food he gets no impression from, beets.

Detective Chu's abilities lead him down a bizarre, disgusting career path to being a special agent for the FDA. It turns out that his abilities come in quite handy when he ingests part of a victim or suspect and can get a picture as to how crimes have played out. He gets assigned to using cannibalism to clean up a large backlog of open and cold cases as well as track down chicken smugglers. This story takes place in an alternate history where bird flu has lead to outlawing all poultry and a black market and "chicken speakeasies" have cropped up. All of this should seem extremely outlandish yet the story coalesces into a compelling and well-plotted narrative.

Chew is written by John Layman, a comic book writer and letterer whose main credits before this series were on X-Men and various crossover comics. Layman offers some insight into his plans for the series in this article. Rob Guillory draws the book in a very cartoony style, with small details and jokes in the backgrounds, yet he also grounds the art in a type of realism. He won the 2010 Harvey Award for Best New Talent, and he comments on his drawing process in this article.

This quirky book won the Eisner and Harvey Awards for best new series and also has received its share of praise. Tony Chu is a great character, the story is great if a little off beat and I’m looking forward to continuing the adventure" in later volumes.

This book is published by Image Comics and a preview is available here.

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