Pick of the Week
What did the
- Pick of the Week - 05.22.2013 - Daredevil #26
- Pick of the Week - 05.15.2013 - Edgar Allen Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher #1
- Pick of the Week - 05.08.2013 - Thor: God of Thunder #8
- Pick of the Week - 05.01.2013 - Animal Man #20
- Pick of the Week - 04.24.2013 - Uncanny Avengers #7
The way that the comic book industry is structured right now, there seems to be very little room for surprise. Most of the major companies can predict how a book will sell fairly accurately, and the readership seems to be set in its ways.
But every once in a while a book will come along and defy everyone’s expectations and take the industry completely by surprise.
The latest book of the kind is Chew from Image Comics.
Theses days I am leaning more and more towards buying comics in trades, especially those not put out by Marvel and DC. A book like Chew would have been something I would have made a note to look out for in trade, but would have been something that I passed up on the shelf. But for some reason I picked up Chew #1 when it came out. I’m not really sure why. I remember reading the solicitation in the comics section right before leaving to go to the store and thinking that it sounded interesting. I remember seeing the cover and liking it. And… I remember impulsively grabbing the issue off the shelf and throwing it on my stack. To this day I don’t know why, but I am glad I did. I am also glad that after reading it I sent an e-mail out to the staff here at iFanboy telling everyone to pick it up. I don’t send an e-mail like that out very often, but I did for Chew #1 because I didn’t want this book to slide under the radar. It had been a long time since I had read something so inventive and imaginative. A book that was equal parts funny and serious, and so utterly unique.
I loved the first issue. And apparently a lot of other people did too. As writer John Layman said in the letters column of this issue, Chew #1 sold out in 48 hours and this week saw its second printing hit shelves (decimating, I’m sure, the secondary market that saw issues of Chew #1 selling for $40 at Comic-Con). Suddenly this book was everywhere and everyone was raving about it. It had been a long time since a book showed up out of nowhere and caught such instant fire. If it hadn’t had the misfortune of hitting the stands the same week as Batman & Robin #1, its impact might have even been louder.
The second issue worried me ever so slightly because I didn’t like it nearly as much as the first — although I still liked it a lot — and felt it was a bit more paint by numbers; it was a bit more standard.
After finishing reading Chew #3 I was so, so happy because this issue might have been better than the first.
Chew is the story of Tony Chu, the newest agent of the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) which, in the world of Chew, is the most powerful law enforcement agency in the Unites States. This is because in this world, all poultry has been deemed an illegal substance due to fears of widespread bird flu contamination. And as with all illegal substances that people really enjoy (chicken in Chew, alcohol during Prohibition, pot, cocaine, etc.) a thriving underground blackmarket as sprung up. People want their chicken. Because, well, chicken is tasty and tofu isn’t. Tony Chu isn’t your everyday federal agent. He’s a cibopath, which means that once he tastes any kind of food (other than beets) he experiences its entire history. If he eats steak he experiences the sensations that the cow did, from the grass it eats to the pain and blood of the slaughter, the chemicals and hormones added to the meat — everything from birth to the time the meat arrives on Chu’s plate, he experiences those wonderful taste sensations. It makes him a valuable investigator (especially when he can munch on a dead body to learn a killer’s identity), but it also makes him a miserable human being.
Until now. Tony Chu is in love and her name is Amelia Mintz. Amelia is a food critic and Amelia is special too. She’s a saboscriver and that means she writes about food so powerfully that one can literally taste the food just from reading her words. Finally, Tony can experience the wonderful sensations that food can offer without all of the cibopathic side effects. And as it happens, Amelia is pretty. Either way, Tony Chu is in love.
I think that my favorite thing about Chew is the big, imaginative ideas. I love getting immersed in a world that is familiar, yet full of fantastical new elements that are fun and well thought out and, most importantly, make sense within the confines of the story. I love the idea that Amelia can pass along food sensation through the power of her words, and that it might not always be a good thing. When she gets bored with her job, she starts writing about restaurants with very poor health ratings and people all over New York start getting sick from reading her column in the paper. As if it wasn’t enough that Layman and Guillory created a cibopathic detective in a world where poultry is illegal, they also created his (seemingly) perfect mate.
It’s a funny thing to consider when talking about an industry dominated by superheroes who do fantastic things, but big, smart imagination is sometimes in short supply in the comic book world. No so here. Chew is overflowing with big imaginative ideas that are not only smart but a hell of a lot of fun too.
I’m a big fan of Rob Guillory’s art in Chew. It’s cartoony and hyper-exaggerated in way that is perfect for a book that lives in a cartoony and hyper-exaggerated version of our world. Chew is a funny book and Guillory’s style is well suited for that. But Chew is also a serious and action packed book, and here Guillory excels as well. I couldn’t imagine anyone else drawing this book, with art as unique as the concept, Guillory has given the world of a Chew a look and feel all its own.
We are nearing the end of our ninth year of iFanboy and after doing these Picks of the Week for so long its rare when something new comes along and completely surprised you. But when a book like Chew does come along it makes up for all the time spent slogging through piles of mediocre comics.
This is only the third issue of Chew, and Image put out reprints of the first two issues this week as well. It’s not too late to jump on and find out what all the fuss is about.
I really don’t like beets