‘Lost in the Longbox’ Episode 22: “Chew” #1


Chew #1 (Image Firsts line)
(Image Comics, 2012)

Written & lettered by John Layman
Drawn & Colored by Rob Guillory

*The plot, like the meat within the book, are most definitely spoiled

Greetings from the Wasteland!

I picked up a couple of copies of Chew last year when the last hold out comic shop in my area was in the quick and tidy process of closing up it’s recently opened doors. I read them, and they were enough to peak my interest so that when I saw issue #1 in the dollar bin I jumped at it. It’s one of the “Image Firsts” line, a marketing ploy to allow readers to get back to the roots of comics they love but weren’t able or omniscient enough to recognize a good one when it was first on the shelves.

Tony Chu (see what they did there?) works for the FBI. He is also a “cibopath”, a person who can “taste” the origin of the food he eats. For example, if he takes a bite of an apple, he can taste the part of the country it comes from, the hands of the person who picked it, the pesticides sprayed on it to keep the bugs off, etc. Also, think about this for a second, when he eats a steak he can “see” the piston driving into its skull as it’s killed in the plant. Needless to say, Tony Chu doesn’t eat much, except for beets. For some reason, beets have no affect on him.

John Layman has had one hell of an interesting idea here. Not only do we have a “foodie by nature” here, but he lives in a universe where the bird flu has resulted in the F.D.A. being the most powerful arm of the government. Poultry is outlawed and most meat is regulated.

I love the art in this book because it’s deceptively cartoony. You can’t doubt Rob Guillory’s talent when you look at the pages. There is one double-page spread that is particularly striking. Tony Chu has just eaten a bite of soup that has pieces of human in it. (I know, right?) The large figure of Tony in one corner, about a quarter of one page, is colored regularly. The rest of the two pages is a conglomeration of about a hundred or so tiny panels, most a sickly orange/red color, with splashes of white thrown in and some green-yellow. It does a great job of clarifying what he’s feeling just with the color choices, but when you look at the little panels, you see that each has a picture of a memory from the man who killed people whose meat Tony is eating. (Yeah…I just wrote that sentence.) It’s a perfect example of how art can do things in a couple of pages what would take lines and lines of dialogue or expository dialogue boxes. These two pages instantly bring Tony’s significance as a character, as a cop and as a cibopath, into stark clarification, while bringing the reader into the book, into his head.

In the end, of course, there is a dramatic fall for Tony, who sees his partner hit in the head with a meat cleaver, then feasts on the blood of the serial killer to discover the names of his victims. Fortunately for Tony, the powerful people at the F.D.A can overlook such…foibles and see the bigger picture. He is an asset they could use.

Chew #1 was a surprise to me and a reminder as to why Image and other companies do these re-releases of first issues. From now on I’ll be very “chew”sy about back issues…and pick up all of these titles that I can.


Follow Brad Gischia on Twitter:  @comicwasteland

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