Against a backdrop of sumptuous satire, delectable art, and original flavor “Chew” #33 provides food for thought.
Written by John Layman
Illustrated by Rob Guillory
Tony takes on a load of seamen.
In the midst of the ‘Bad Apples,’ story arc, Layman and Guillory continue to find innovative ways to engage and surprise readers. “Chew” #33 takes on topics from the downside of office romance, to international espionage with the same unyieldingly humorous tone.
Now in the second half of the series, the quality of Layman and Guillory’s work stays strong. The incredible fluency of the creative team must be acknowledged. “Chew” began with Tony Chu, a single Cibopath in a chicken-free world trying to make a difference, but along the way we have learned that he is far from being alone. We have met a Saboscrivner, who makes people taste the food she writes about; a Voresoph, who becomes smarter as he eats; and a Cibovoyant, who can see the future of any living thing she eats, to name a few. Even minor villains who appear in only a couple of pages have highly specific sustenance-related abilities. One such character is an Effervenductor, who can use latte foam to control the minds of his patrons. This is just a taste of the incredibly original and ever-growing catalog of Chewniverse powers. In this issue we meet a Ciboinvalescor, someone who becomes stronger as he eats. You know, like Popeye, but not limited to spinach? And what Popeye-esque show down would be complete without a few sailor men?
Tony joins the Navy on a classified mission in Yamapalu, where the Church of the Immaculate Ova has stationed a key member of their organization. Of course, Guillory’s imagining of the aquatic military branch has less to do with officers and gentlemen and more to do with the 1979 Village People hit, “In the Navy.” The “Chew” team never misses an opportunity for a laugh. They use images to make plays on words. As the cadets and Tony listen to a briefing, we notice the animals sitting with them are seals, Navy seals. Its that kind of thought that makes the series truly enjoyable. Every detail is carefully constructed to elicit the maximum comedic response.
Guillory’s art has been a continual asset to the series. His one-of-a-kind take on this world creates a comprehensive environment that makes “Chew” instantly recognizable, regardless of setting, character, or event. The content has been so uniquely stylized that motifs have emerged that are instantly evident. When Tony takes a bite of something, or someone, for instance; panels go monochromatic, the narration takes a familiar tone, and we are transported through the history of that character or foodstuff. This formula never becomes tiresome because the content is so unpredictable and original each time this device is employed. Layman’s narration builds on itself, repeating themes and phrases from earlier issues, immediately calling previous events to mind, and binding the story together.
The team is able to create a brilliant contrast to the everyday world, while keeping one toe in the pool of reality. “Chew” could have easily been set some far-flung universe, instead, the world of the series is our own. We are bombarded with acronyms like FDA, FBI, and USDA, the reference to the established agencies make the departures form normalcy more believable. In the series, places seem familiar, and the world operates in ways we understand. This keeps the title firmly planted in the realm of satirical surrealism, instead of allowing it float into the genre of slapstick fantasy.
In the same way that the gravity of the familiar binds us to the world of “Chew,” the characters pull us in. The spaces where this story unfolds are well-realized; they tell us about the people who occupy them. In this issue Applebee’s apartment paints a portrait of lonely man, drab decor and cat posters make the setting function as an extension of the character. This visual characterization carries over to the way Applebee is depicted, as well. Every detail of his representation, down to the sweat-stains under his arms, stinks of desperation. Each member of the cast is treated in the same attentive, thorough way. They become three-dimensional and relatable because of the hints we are given about them visually.Continued below
Since Toni’s death, the series has taken a darker turn. Any reservations Tony had about using his Cibopathic abilities have vanished. He is on the trail of the killer who took his sister’s life, and nothing will stop him. With vigor and intensity he pursues the man who is responsible for her death. The skills required to marry laugh-out-loud moments with a believable quest for revenge are considerable.
There’s something magical about this title. It shouldn’t work. You should not be able to invest in a world that’s greatest ethical dilemmas have to do with poultry consumption, or buy in to the idea that food-related powers are the key to global domination; you should not be emotionally invested in a rooster. (Speaking of roosters, you will not believe what Secret Agent Poyo is up to this month.) “Chew” makes it work. Somehow, all the ingredients come together to make something absolutely transportive. This title is like nothing else on the table, just taste it; you’ll come back for seconds, I promise.
Final Verdict 8.5 – Tony’s involvement in the Navy delivers fun and excitement, as those ambassadors of disco The Village People tell us, “If you like adventure/Don’t you wait to enter.”