Friday, April 20, 2012

Chew - Volume One : Tasters Choice (comics)

Writer: John Layman
Artist: Rob Guillory
Collects: Chew #1-5

When it first started, this was probably the internets favorite creator-owned book. The critics favorite too. It's won a few awards and is probably on the way to many more. I'm here to tell you that it deserves every one of them.

Tony Chu has a special ability. He's Cibopathic, meaning he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. As the book explains, it means when he bites into an apple, he can tell the tree it was picked from, the pesticides used on it and the date of its harvesting. It also means if he chows down on a bit of a dead body, he can find out who killed the person, with what and where it was done. Did I mention he's a detective? You can see how this would come in handy; you know, aside from the disgusting parts like eating a bit of a dead dog.

This book is utterly unique from top to bottom. From the premise to the artwork to the humor, you simply won't find anything like it on shelves. This is one of those books that just nails it right off. It's fun, it's funny, it's fairly gross and it has a lot of heart. This is a book that has absolutely everything going for it.

It doesn't take long for the book to hook you. By the end of the first issue, it's easy to fall in love with this world and this cast of characters. Chu lives in a strange world with stranger things happening to him, but he's very likable, as is his partner Mason. It's why the events of the volume, including the last issue, hit as well as they do. We get a reveal that, under normal circumstances, I'd argue was a bit too soon for an ongoing series; but by this point Layman has painted a vivid enough world with characters diverse enough that it still works all the same. That's pretty impressive.

Even the art's a winner. Admittedly, there were some bits that took some getting used to, but the artwork in Chew is a thing all its own. By the end of the volume, I was a convert; and I didn't hate it to start with. I couldn't picture the book looking any other way. It's exagerrated and - loathe as I am to say this, as it's often taken in a negative context - cartoony, but it combines with bright colors to paint a vivid picture. The gross out humor and things Chu is forced to eat would not work in a more realistic style; here, the color and the style take some of the disgusting edge off, leaving a palatable sense of icky humor I imagine even those with relatively sensitive stomachs could take.

I simply cannot rave enough about this book; John Layman and Rob Guillory have a real winner on their hands.

The Score: 9 out of 10

Buy it. Seriously, just buy it. After one volume, this has quickly wormed its way into my heart. It may be my favorite creator owned series not written by Brian K. Vaughn. The lost point comes from the art taking a bit of getting used to, but once you do you won't be able to picture the book any other way. I'm definitely on board this book now and in the future. I highly recommend Chew.

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