*There has to be spoilers ahead*
It happened all the way back in issue #30: Toni was murdered brutally with her only appendage held high, her head. My Twitter profile photo is testament to the anarchic pastiche comedy that this book has at its heart, but every now and again Layman and Guillory tear that beating chamber and toss it to the floor. They then stamp on it without remorse or penance. Okay that is a little harsh but to culminate their previous arc with joyous celebration, only to present a glimpse of what is to come?
It left us somewhat nauseated.
This is the secret to longevity, because you may continue to produce all kinds of food inspired superpowers and fight against more and more ludicrous villainous master plans but in time, readers will fall off in boredom. To produce a comic for sixty issues is an amazing feat, and in order to keep the stories fresh, Layman and Guillory have played with our emotions as well as our favourite characters. Whatever your expectations were of this issue, I guarantee you, you were not expecting this.
Layman uses classical distraction techniques to deliver a tale that takes one pain and replaces it with another. Over the past four issues, readers have been readying themselves for the death of Amelia, but Layman did not relinquish that burden because he took someone else away, in a very dramatic and heartfelt way.
The book has been somewhat stifled with single character issues and future glimpses but two tenets of the story have remained: Amelia will die and it is most likely Savoy that will kill her. Tony has persistently refused any future partnership with Mason, and in quite an aggressive fashion. These undertones of mistrust and betrayal can only lead to disastrous circumstances, which is what we some to expect upon opening the pages of this issue. Even the summary panel has Mason weighing up the loss of one life to save millions, adjacent to Tony holding his betrothed in his arms. The ruse was firmly in place. As Mason begins to speak, the creators are very deliberate in making him appear he is talking to someone. At times you wonder if it is Tony or even Amelia in front of him. His speech is resigned and reflective of who he is and the man he has become. Mason describes the tragic loss of his wife and his quest for vengeance against the conspiracy of the poultry purge.
The misdirection is very impressive and Amelia’s expected death is a fantastic example: Mason delivers a dramatic line about how he has only one option followed by a panel with Amelia appearing dead, only to have us turn the page to realise she is very much alive. It brings a sigh of relief and months of concern subside, with Amelia describing Savoy’s heroic deeds as her saviour. The following pages are entertaining enough in their classic Chew style, to distract us further because Layman deliberately wants to avert our attention from Savoy. Bring Mason back in for what is slowly becoming more and more a classic villainous plot exposition reveal. Guillory is masterful at actually depicting him from different angles utilising the props in the room, such as the reflection in the window and the open cans of Beets. If you look closely, the only time Savoy really focuses his attention during his vocals, is directly forward at the readers. This final panel suddenly confirms our suspicions that this whole scene is a final sentimental soliloquy. But we have to endure yet because we are suddenly taken to Chu, Colby and Valenzano fighting a man firing carrot bullets. Another classic Chew stalling plot device because the double page spread that follows is almost too painful to take.
The particularly poignant parts of this page are central to ensure prominence of Mason. Note how the others are very much in the distance and Guillory captures the initial expression of shock as they open the door. It is akin to the reader turning the page. The complete lack of colour emphasises the bleakness and loss of life with the broken photo frame of his wife leads us to despair. The suicide of a character is a difficult situation to handle with sensitivity. Both Jonathon and Rob have treated it with time and patience, whilst keeping it as a massive twist for the purposes of the story. If you re read this issue then it takes on a complete different meaning and your empathy for Mason is all the more upsetting.
There is a very thoroughly and detailed plot thread through all of this, and the biggest reveal has yet to come. Soon as you come to terms with the actions of Mason, there is only one consequence. In order for his death to have meaning, Tony must consume part of Savoy and take grasp of the situation at hand. One that nobody understands except for the man who has taken his own life. There is dignity to Mason’s death as he accepted his action and the path he has taken, knowing there was nothing else he could do. Millions of lives are at stake and he hands the responsibility of them over to a man more capable of saving them. As I have alluded to above, both creators have kept the central premise of Chew whilst delivering a painful and heartfelt story in a very poignant and emotional manner. I cannot possibly imagine what the final five issues have in story but I am sure they will be exciting and yet I worry they will be upsetting too, in any case the books will be some of the best on the shelves.