Tuesday, June 8, 2010

You Should Be Reading: Chew

It's rare that weird story ideas not only find an audience in a market where stories don't stray far from the norm, but become popular and successful. However, Chew is one of those rare ideas. And in it's short tenure on the market (10 issues), it's become one of my favorite indy series out there.

Admittedly, it does fall into an oft-used genre, the "Detective with a twist" story. However, it's weird enough that it can stray from the cliches and be a truly unique story. As can be expected, Chew is about food. Set in a somewhat-distant-but-not-to terribly-different-future, Chew presents a world where a deadly outbreak of avian flu lead to an embargo of land fowl in the United States. However, there are still speakeasies that serve chicken and many believe that the bird flu was a conspiracy perpetrated by the U.S. government. But that's not important.

What is important is our protagonist: Tony Chu. Tony is a detective from Philidelphia who has a special, food-based power. He's a cibopath (no, I don't know how that's pronounced), meaning that whenever he eats something, he gets a psychic reading from it and picks up on some of it's experiences and memories. This is a terrible inconvenience, and so Tony dedicates himself to eating the only food he doesn't get a reading from: beets. Tony is an absolutely tragic character throughout the series. This works because his failures make him likeable and make us keep reading and his victories seem all the sweeter.

Tony is quickly recruited into the most powerful law-enforcement branch of the U.S. government, the FDA. Supporting characters include John Colby, Tony's former partner and rather unlikeable yet funny character, and Mike Applbee, Tony's angry new boss. However, the best of them is Tony's new partner, Mason Savoy. Mason is crazy mish-mash of characteristics: He's part police officer, part upper class, part badass, and part fat guy. What's more, he's also a cibopath. He is doubtlessly the most fun character of the book and one of the main reasons I still read it: Hoping he'll show up again.

The stories are as strange and the premise, but usually they are comedic with a bittersweet ending. Tony's investigations will lead him down strange roads that will force him to investigate by eating strange things. He will frequently run into his brother, disgruntled chef Chow Chu, and the object of his affection, food critic Amelia Mintz, who has her own weird but sorta cool food-based powers. Writer John Layman makes sure the characters are sharp and interesting and that the stories are all unique, but easy to follow.

If I had any criticism, it would be the artwork. Rob Guillory's style is very cartoony, and while I normally like that sort of thing, it sometimes gets out of hand. Some of his characters look really good, like Tony, Mason, and Colby. Some are less appealing, like Amelia or Applebee. However, there was one that stuck out: USDA agent Lin Sae Woo. This woman is draw with ridiculous proportions that would make a Barbie doll look like Kevin Smith.

Still, it's the story that keeps us interested. Tony's episodic investigations, his conflict with Applebee, the promise of an appearance by Mason, and the mystery surrounding the bird flu outbreak are all unique, intringing, funny, tragic, and well written stories. The characters are vibrant and their interactions with each other are always fun. The first trade paperback is on shelves now and the second is on the way soon. I'd recommend it for anyone with a taste for the strange (Heh. Taste. Food humor).

Thanks for reading, friends. See you next time!

No comments:

Post a Comment