I thought I’d start posting the occasional graphic novel review over here even though all the manga coverage had moved over to Manga Report. I don’t tend to be fairly current with my American comics purchasing, so most of what I’ll talk about will likely have been released for awhile.
Chew: Omnivore Edition Volume 1 by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Chew provides a high-concept spin on the traditional detective story that blends humor with occasional gruesome elements. In Chew‘s version of America, chicken has been outlawed due to a bird-flu epidemic. People make due with faux chicken products, while the real meat is sold on the streets like heroin. The FDA and USDA have become the new powerful law enforcement agencies. Tony Chu is a cibopath, able to get a psychic history of anything he eats, be it animal or vegetable. The only food that seems to be immune to his powers is beets. As a consequence of his gift, Chu is hungry all the time.
Chu makes the mistake of sampling the soup at a chicken speakeasy and discovers that the chef is a serial killer, sneaking human flesh into the restaurant’s dishes. The chef cut his hand and dropped a tiny bit of his own blood into the soup, triggering Chu’s powers. Chu corners the chef in an alleyway, demanding the names of the other victims. When the serial killer chef refuses to help, Chu gets the information the only way he can. While his bosses are happy that Chu busted the serial killer, they aren’t so happy that Chu found it necessary to bite of the perp’s face in order to collect evidence. Chu is dismissed by the police force, but he’s quickly recruited by the FDA by the rotund Agent Savoy.
Chu’s adventures working for the FDA begin, and he’s forced to taste increasingly unpalatable items in order to carry out his job duties. There are plenty of conspiracies to unravel, but he also manages to take the time to fall in love with a food critic. Chew exhibits a compelling mix of dark humor combined with a few gross-out moments. Illegal egg dealers have special pockets in the inside of their trench coats for displaying their wares. Chu’s brother gets fired from his cooking TV show after he rants about fake chicken. Guillory’s art bring a caricaturist’s sense of whimsy to a gritty, animation influenced art style. Some of the character design work in Chew reminded me a little bit of classic Kyle Baker. This is a fun series for mystery fans who are looking for something to read that is a little bit unusual.