Several months ago I heard about a comic book from Image called Chew that piqued my attention. The basics, as I heard them, is that the FDA is now the top law enforcement agency in the United States because of an outbreak of bird flu caused by chicken meat. Working for the FDA is Tony Chu, a cibopath. What's a cibopath? Well, that's a person who gets psychic impressions from anything he eats. As a consequence, he pretty much eats only canned beets. But he does occasionally taste blood or pieces of flesh from murder victims to help solve the crimes. Based on this, I wanted to read the comic.

But I'm basically a lazy person and I never got around to reading it until now. I had reservations about jumping into a series at issue 14, especially when it's part 4 of 5 in the current story arc (Just Desserts). From what I've gathered, the series tries to do 5-part story arcs. So not only have I missed the first two arcs, I've missed 60% of the current one. Obviously I'm screwed, right? Well maybe not.

In the opening scene, with Tony proposing to some woman in a restaurant, I figured I was jumping into an established, current relationship. I was wrong, but that was made clear on page two. What was also clear is that this book is NUTS! I don't want to make assertions about John Layman because I don't know the man. But, if this is what happens in your head you might want to see a professional. On the other hand, you could just keep writing this and be entertaining as hell. I especially enjoy the remarkable subtlety. I need to find some back issues just so I can figure out whether the food references that seemed so plentiful in this book permeate the entire series.

As bizarre as the story becomes, the illustration kept me smiling on practically every panel. Rob Guillory fills every page. This book demands you really look at every frame. Sometimes I found myself inspecting the backgrounds so closely that I missed some of the foreground. There are subtle jokes everywhere. Some of my favorites were the mugging happening right behind Tony (in cop uniform) in a flashback, the cookbooks on his girlfriend's shelf (odd, being that Tony only eats beets) and the villain wearing a mechanic jacket with "Hollis Mason" embroidered on it. But these fun tidbits aren't even the best part of the artwork. Tony is drawn very angular, while many of those around him seem much softer. This dichotomy works well. The color palette seems bland, but very appropriate, especially when the panels shift tone and color together for cibopathic memory flashes.

Despite entering the story from way too late I didn't actually feel lost. The minor characters are probably far more interesting to someone more well-versed in the title. I also expect the dialogue would have had a totally different impact with a better understanding of characters and reationships. The script does a very good job of showing new readers who characters are, their relationships to one another, and even the motivations for some of their actions. Long time readers are surely getting more from it than I am, but I didn't feel as lost as I thought would be.

For sheer entertainment value, subtlety, humor, gross factor and over the top characters I have to give this comic five out five severed toes. For the sake of walking and balance, let's say three from one foot and two from the other. If you've missed this series like I have you might want to wait until the next arc begins or catch up with back issues first. But if you want to jump in right now, don't hesitate. It's on sale now.

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