Trade Junkie: “Chew Vol. 1: Taster’s Choice”

Today we step back a couple of years to look at the first trade of one of my favorite comics currently being released, Chew.

Chew is a pseudo-crime comic following Tony Chu as he begins his rather troubling career with the F.D.A. The special thing about Tony is that he’s a Cibopath, capable of getting a psychic read on the life of whatever he eats. Meaning that if he eats an apple he sees all of the chemicals used to grow that apple. On the other hand if he eats a steak he see the life of the cow right up to butchering day. The catch to all of this? Tony Chu is a homicide investigator.

The story is easily one of the more imaginative comic book stories currently running. At first glance the story appears to be a grim one and at times this is somewhat true. That said it retains a fantastic level of both written and visual humor helping to balance the more grotesque aspects of the series. A man literally chomps into the victims of horrible crimes to get a read on the suspects – Even from there though the world around Tony is not a normal one. Bird flu has wiped out hundreds of people and as a reaction the government has labeled chicken as illegal contraband – Such an absurd setting and yet the true draw of the comic is how the writer explores this concept and makes this world, crazy though it may be, a functioning and intriguing one.

Even beyond setting the characters of Chew are fascinating. Each person moves throughout the story seamlessly, giving you the feeling that these people truly exist within the story’s world. Beyond that the inventive and somewhat odd concepts behind each character are utilized not only to their fullest potential but in logical, interesting and even down right funny ways. Even the abilities displayed by several of the characters never come off as gimmicks but rather an extension of each character. For instance the newspaper columnist naturally has an ability beneficial to her life’s work which comes out through her writing(as well as making her my personal favorite for obvious reasons).

Going even by a technical level the story of Chew flows at a tight pacing with each chapter packed to the brim with enough content to satisfy you and leave you longing for more while at the same time keeping it from becoming overly crowded. As I stated previously each new character moves throughout the story fluidly and rarely do any of them feel underdeveloped. Every side character move in and out of the spot light whenever its right for them to do so and the transitions never really feel jarring. What I find even more intriguing is the level of set up involved even within the first volume of the story. Future story arcs all find roots within these initial five chapters adding a level of depth and mystery into how the story will develop going off of what the reader has already seen.

The art side of things is a slightly harder sell than the story. The style of art present throughout the book is really give or take depending on the reader. While it certainly does a good job in representing the story’s absurdity it is nevertheless a bit off-putting. The art is what I would describe as comically dirty. Non of the coloring or lines are really clean, instead the art takes the route of showing the more gross aspects of things like food, flesh and other bodily excrements to their fullest extent within the story.

While it does sort of take measures to show off the gross side of things it never loses its humor. In fact a large portion of the more subtle humor within the series is present solely through the art as the artist takes clear efforts to make each chapter fun to read again and again if only to find every hidden joke and reference. The art style used on the characters, while oddly proportioned, is not only unique but helps to accentuate each character’s personality as well as their abilities.

The first volume of Chew is available from Image comics and is currently still ongoing in a sporadic release schedule. Currently Chew stands at five volumes strong the latest of which brings the reader immediately up to date on the current story. With sixty issues currently slated to be released, and volumes printed after every fifth issue, there’s still plenty of Chew to come. With its relatively low price point in trades it makes catching up on one of the most innovative series in the comic industry a breeze.

Publisher: Image Comics
Retail Price: $9.99
Writer: John Layman
Artist: Rob Guillory
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Science Fiction
Original Release: November 25, 2009
Availability: Common

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