Chew Volume One: Taster’s Choice

Written & Lettered by John Layman. Drawn and Coloured by Rob Guillory.

Imagine taking a bite out of a succulent, medium rare steak. Tastes good right? When Tony Chu takes a bite out of a steak, he sees the history of this cut of meat. In graphic detail, a vision will cross his mind of where the cow grazed, how and who killed it and prepared it for your meal. It’s enough to turn anyone off food.

The concept of this graphic novel immediately excited me. It offered a refreshing and inventive idea, nothing like I had ever read or heard of before.

The story revolves around a detective who receives psychic impressions from the food he eats. The world in which he lives has prohibited the sale of chicken and chicken based foods. Shock and horror, a world without chicken? I’d quickly turn to an underground black market for my fix, which is what happens in this story. That’s the story in a nut shell, a small cluster-phobic inducing and limiting nutshell. The same feeling of limitation can be said for our hero, Mr Chu, as a result of his ‘ability’, but more on our hero later.

Such an inventive and promising concept, I can’t stress that enough. I must say, however, that I was actually a little disappointed with the end of volume one.

For me it was the dialogue, I expected it to be more sophisticated and witty. Instead there were instances of cheesy dialogue, reminiscent of my childhood cartoons, minus the inappropriate language. This occurs specifically between our hero, Tony Chu and his superior officer, Mike Applebee. Chew is a dark and, at times, a violent and gory graphic novel, certainly not something a child should read. Logically then, the dialogue should reflect the target audience. I guess it was how the writer attempted to add some obvious and general humour into the mix. I wasn’t so impressed, but I have faith. Okay, maybe I’m being too harsh, because there were some moments that made me smile and maybe even made me chuckle lightly.

As for the pace in which this graphic novel runs; I felt that it progressed a little too fast. The story quickly jumps with little moments of reflection and thinking. I’d like to explain further, but I feel that I will be giving away a little too much.

The main character is naive and stubborn with a keen sense of justice. These are traits that make for a complex, yet relatable main character. We want him to succeed, but we’re annoyed at his insubordination. Then again, that yearning to say ‘stuff you! You clean aisle 6! I’m gonna stock aisle 3’, to the higher-ups is something we can relate to. Perhaps not in those exact words though. At the same time we feel sorry for him as we learn that this ability is truly a curse. I experienced a range of confusing emotions in the first graphic novel, it’s like being a teenager again, except less awkward. I must say though, perhaps it wasn’t Chu progressing as a character, but an insight into his irrationality and belief in justice.

Rob Guillory, is a talented artist. That’s not something I will contest! I feel that his gritty, yet ‘goofy’ style captures the mood of Chew quite well.

There are some political influences which drives the main storyline. It fits the story very well as it has been intertwined in a clever manner. Conspiracies just add to the fun and mystery of this story.

The comic delves into the subject of cannibalism, something which is very rarely explored in detective comic books. It’s creepy and I shudder as I read the panels mentioning such an act. Yet, it has caught my attention and I realise that this comic is not bound or restricted by its concept. It has created an open world full of possibilities and potentially experimental and controversial story arcs.

I recommend this graphic novel, if only for a try. If you’re willing to try something new and different, I say give it a go. You should be able to find volume one quite cheap at your local comic book store. It has its faults, but I really believe in the potential of this story. It truly is a compelling and interesting concept. I admit that I haven’t pushed myself to purchase volume 2 as of yet, but after reading this volume a second time, I will for the sake of monitoring its progression.

Such potential.

3.5/5

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