Chew #36 [Kamak's Corner]

By Contributing Writer Brian Kamak

Chew #36 (Image): I’m biased. Chew is my favorite title, but it’s definitely not for everyone. Actually, it’s for the select few degenerates that are anti-cape and on the search for a book that’s truly unique. If you’re familiar with this title, then please skip to the next paragraph. If not, then stick around. Chew is the 2010 Eisner Award Winner for Best New Series. It focuses mostly on FDA Agent Tony Chu and his cibopathic power, which is the ability to psychically see what any object has been through via ingestion. For example, if a cibopath was to come across a dead body, all he’d have to do is take a nice big bite of the decomposing flesh to learn what happened to the departed. There are a handful of stunningly crafted supporting characters that vary from Tony’s bionic partner John Colby and the ultimate weapon, Secret Agent Poyo (he’s the badass rooster that makes Batman tremble in his boots), to the straight-laced and always irritable FDA Chief Mike Applebee (he has a secret relationship with Agent Colby). This is just skimming the surface of the cast, there are enough characters to always keep you entertained, yet never overwhelmed, they flow in and out of the arcs seamlessly. The setting is a near future where an Avian Flu Pandemic has caused an FDA ban on chicken. The FDA becomes the most powerful law enforcement agency on the planet, predominately intent on arresting chicken smugglers. Chew is quite possibly the darkest humor I've ever read, while maintaining some truly dramatic moments that focus on family and relationships. 

*Spoiler Alert* This story is a prequel of Toni Chu’s death (Tony Chu’s twin sister). Writer John Layman integrates the story perfectly into the “Space Cakes” story arc, while kicking off the new “Family Recipes” story arc. The story focuses on Toni Chu, who is aware of her untimely demise and her final days leading up to it. Layman brings us even further into the Chu family by providing true-to-life dialogue that’s all too familiar among siblings. Although this seems like a downer of an issue, Layman does a great job of keeping it heartwarming and comical. 

Rob Guillory’s art has been, and still is, brilliantly consistent throughout this series. The art has been described as a “streamlined cartoon” style.  All I know is that it may be viewed as cartoonish, but great attention to detail is everywhere. The expressions of the players’ faces make it so you can imagine what’s going through their minds without speech balloons. Guillory leaves Easter Eggs throughout the pages. If you spend enough time examining the panels, you’ll notice hilarious little tidbits such as a get well card that states “Look at the bright side... you’re already in a coma.” The covers are always cleverly done, and in this issue it’s an ode to Warner Brothers’ Porky Pig and his signature “Th-Th-That’s All Folks!” Guillory’s style is akin to that of Underground Comix’s R. Crumb. Sometimes I wonder if he’s holding back or if he’s truly cuttings lose and letting his wild side shine in his art. 

If you love Batman and hate The Big Lebowski, then look elsewhere. But, if the idea of a cibopathic government agent who only enjoys eating beets, a totally badass rooster, and a brilliantly-crafted world filled with larger-than-life characters sounds intriguing, then Chew is for you. If you’re never going to read Chew regularly, then at least pick up this issue for the awesome two-page spread of Secret Agent Poyo battling Mutant Corn and Superfish. That alone is worth the price of admission. Special thanks to Brian K. Vaughan, who signed my copy of Chew #35 and wrote “Layman is a nerd” on the cover. If you don’t get the connection, in that issue Tony Chu’s daughter is rocking a Lying Cat t-shirt from Saga, a brilliant little “crossover.” Grade A+.


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