Comics You Should Be Reading: Chew

Writer: Jon Layman
Artist: Ron Guillory

Chew has one of the most interesting premises of any comic I have read. Try to keep up. In Chew a deadly pandemic of avian flu (bird flu) killed thousands of people. The USA decided to ban chicken and other poultry. Like anything that is banned by the government, a black market quickly started selling illegal chicken. This caused the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to become one of the most powerful entities in the United States government. It has become so powerful, and the United States government has become so intrusive that many people believe the bird flu was just a hoax created by the government to gain more power over American citizens.

It’s in this world that we meet Tony Chu. He is a police officer with a special gift. When he eats anything edible he immediately sees that thing’s history. If he eats an apple he can see what farm it was grown on, when it was picked, what pesticides where used on it and more. If he eats a hamburger he can see horrible treatment that cow went through before it reached his plate. If he happens to eat part of a human he can see what they did that morning or maybe the crimes they’ve committed. It’s because of this power (or curse in Tony’s eyes) that Tony Chu gets recruited the FDA Special Crimes Division.

As you can see, Chew has a dark and twisted sense of humor. It’s one of the funniest comics I have read. The humor ranges from simple jokes and one-liners to crazy concepts like a newspaper restaurant reviewer who is able to write about food so intricately that people can taste what she is writing about (unfortunately, when she writes about bad food people start projectile vomiting). Chew is one of the few comics that have made me laugh out loud while reading. The humor extends to the art too. Make sure you look in the background of every panel; there are plenty of jokes all over the place.

I can’t say enough about the art of the series. It is a cartoonish and exaggerated style. It perfectly fits the slightly cartoonish world that these characters live in. If the art had been more realistic the humor wouldn’t have worked as well. If it had been more cartoonish the gravity of the situations Chu finds himself in would be lost. Every panel is packed with detail and every character is distinct. The world is grimy and you can see every crack in the wall, puddle in the street and stain under an armpit. Whether Tony is fighting a gang of Yakuza or talking to his partner in the hospital, the art is fantastic. Do yourself a favor and check out Ron Guillory’s website to see more of his art.

Along with the humor, Chew has plenty of intrigue and action. On Tony’s first day on an FDA case he and his partner, Mason Savoy, end up fighting a room full of killers with swords and guns. It shocks both Tony and the readers but Savoy tells Chu that he is with the FDA now and stuff like that happens every day. Jon Layman also lays in a lot of mysteries to the story. The conspiracy of the bird flu is currently in the background but it should eventually play a bigger part in the story. There are lots of unanswered questions that have you trying to figure out what’s next.

Layman also does a great job of filling the world of Chew with interesting secondary characters. Every character has a personality of their own that adds to the book. You will want to know what happens to every character, not just Chu.

Chew is a fantastic comic. Everything about it works. It has fantastic art, interesting characters and an intriguing plot. Layman manages to give you a great comic every month and the promise of more in the future. Filled with humor, action and intrigue, everyone should find something to love in Chew. The best part is, it is only on issue 14 which means it is incredibly easy to get caught up on the story and start getting it each month. I just picked up the beautiful hardcover Omnivore Edition Vol. 1. If you have an iPad, issues 1-11 are available through the Image app.

Images via Chew website

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  • i LOVE that comic. i have the first two trades, but my local barnes and noble has the omnivore edition signed by the writer. i really really want it

  • Ann Thrope

    Chew is awesome!