Chew is one of those books that sits on the shelves and arrives into your bag without a second thought, but the hunger pangs kick in as the weeks pass waiting for the next issue to arrive. It is a staple food in my sumptuous comic diet and it really needs more attention and publicity, which I am hopefully about to correct. First of all it must be said that Layman and Guillory are a seamless combination and have developed a sense of humour and tone not only completely in keeping with one another, but one that stands alone compared to any other book. It is a disinhibited, tongue in cheek, fourth wall breaking, and completely open-minded sense of comedy. And with that they develop a story from issue one that is all encompassing, intricate and perfectly paced. With that in mind you might think that the deeper and personal stories may be difficult to produce and the deliverance of impactful events a little off key but they truly aren’t. Despite setting the book up as a silly foodie concept, the adventures and relationships of Tony Chu are truly heartbreaking. I say that in all honesty and sincerity as I tell you that Chu is a detective that is able to eat anything and empathetically understand the life story of that foodstuff, and yes, that includes humans.
Over fifty issues we have firmly established the world of eatery powers and Layman has rejoiced in creating more and more absurd categories and, just in this issue we have the Galbatatayatsar (crafting mash potato into golems), the Pastavestavalescor (strength and muscle mass is increased by wearing spaghetti) and the Piscidentiur (a pescetarian diet gives razor sharp teeth). They are frankly ridiculous but both Tony and his archenemy, the Collector, have developed their cibopathic powers to allow themselves to absorb the powers of those they have eaten. Hence the reason for the name Collector and why this final battle is a true David and Goliath moment. Guillory provides perfect artistic accompaniment as these villainous goons look as ridiculous as their names suggest. He delivers that quirky exaggeration in all he does, including the appearance of the characters, the action movements and emotive exposition. Each panel hits a note that accentuates the purpose of the page and Guillory is able to do it all and this comic shows tender moments of anger, loss and regret. It is because the comic can be so light hearted that when they produce the shock plot twists, it hits you very hard. This comment will immediately take you back to the death of Tony’s twin sister, Toni, and the near fatal confrontation of the Collector and Tony’s daughter, Olive. Layman may give you exuberant tales of the killer chicken Poyo but he will also take away the people you hold most dear.
The comic follows in rather archetype storyline fashion as it jumps back and forth to the present and gives the set up whilst delivering the action. But when the moment comes, all time and space is given to Tony and the Collector. Though this is far from the final issue, it is the final confrontation and as an issue gives you a little of everything you need. It has a great build where Tony readies himself with one final angry meal with his friends and loved ones. The Collector also has some time for plot revelation and moments of sheer villainous arrogance. Multiple sub plots and secrets are revealed in this issue and for the dedicated readers; there is much to revel in. These include the true importance of Poyo, Toni’s whisper, and the sentiment of the chocolate knife. And as Tony arrives to face a horde of minions, they fast forward to a post fight scene that delivers a clear message: Tony is ready.
Guillory has a handle on the impact of strikes and the flight of movement within each panel. The fluidity and dynamism is a little lost but the crucial moments of the battle are well shown. The Collector always looks so sleek and crisp in his movements where we are all very used to Tony taking a beating. But when vengeance is ready, it comes hard and it comes fast. The momentum sways and then escalates to the final pages to bring excitement and joy. Both Layman and Guillory pay such incredible attention to detail that the final panels mirror a confrontation from back in issue thirty. This provides that proverbial cherry on top and seemingly successfully completes the epic battle of Tony and the Collector. Until we reach the epilogue…
John and Rob are creating the comic they want to create and there are no boundaries or limitations to their artistic processes. This is an odd comic with a ridiculous concept and oddities galore. But they have made it their own with passion and enthusiasm, and it has succeeded immensely. Especially considering you can buy vinyl Chogs and the official Chew card game. I once asked Layman about his work in Detective Comics and how he enjoyed it compared to Chew. He simply stated that he liked the opportunities presented to him but his writing style and nuances are firmly embedded in Chew, that is the most important thing to him. Both John Layman and Rob Guillory are not apologists, they appreciate their dedicated fanbase and love the work they are doing but they will not pander to popular trends or revel in niche pretentiousness. The adventures of Tony Chu and family are written and drawn with great delight and dedication and it is a book for each and everyone to enjoy. I have never read a comic that can make you laugh and cry withjn the same issue, and that is why it will be so dearly missed when those final ten books, one by one, leave the shelves.
“It tastes angry”