Monday, August 31, 2009

Big League Chu

Yesterday, a friend of mine lent me a comic book called Chew; authored by John Layman, illustrated by Rob Guillory. Usually, I am not one for comics or graphic novels -- or at least I haven't given them much notice. However, I was instantly hooked by this one. My friend guessed correctly that this would be right up my alley. A summary:

Tony Chu is cibopathic; which is to say that he receives psychic impressions from anything that he takes a bite out of. Whether that be a bite out of an apple, wherein he can sense what tree it came from and what pesticides were used; or a bite out of a hamburger, from which he can tell how badly the cow was treated. Oddly enough, beets are the only thing that he doesn't get a psychic feeling from. The stress associated with his superpower causes him to eat lots of beet salads.

He is also a cop. And in his deranged commitment to justice, he resorts to cannibalizing perpetrators in order to receive psychic answers to their crimes. Would a McGruff the crime dog joke be too obvious here?

A pandemic of bird flu has caused the U.S. government to outright ban poultry sale and consumption. This, inevitably, has created a black market for chicken, and has led to the creation of underground restaurants, or "chicken speakeasies." It has also led to the F.D.A.'s rise to power, which has eclipsed law enforcement to become the most powerful agency in the country, with complete jurisdiction over all black market matters.

Savoy, a leading F.D.A. agent, who is also cibopathic, recruits Tony Chu because of his special talent (there are only three known cibopaths in the world) and assigns him to a special crimes unit of the F.D.A. Tony Chu now takes bites out of forensic evidence, like decomposed fingers, in order to solve murder mysteries. And that's about as far as I've come.

Obviously, The Dead Zone comes to mind, as well as the movie Strange Days, mainly for its similar dystopian atmosphere and black market theme. I say dystopian, but Chew more mirrors contemporary society rather than projects the future degrading of a society (inextricably linked with the dystopian genre, I feel). In Chew, there is mass distrust of the government and its intentions behind the poultry ban, and those who speak out against it are dealt with in various ways. In one case, Tony Chu's brother Chow Chu, a celebrity cooking show chef, abruptly speaks out against the ban on his show and is subsequently suspended, while the network is fined the largest cable network fine in history by the F.C.C. (under the advisement of the F.D.A). In another, Tony Chu himself threatens a Poultfree chicken shack employee with the removal of his family if he doesn't cooperate. The threat is ever-present, and the citizens are being watched. I'm sure there are many parallels to draw here; this isn't all in Mr. Layman's imagination.

Anyhow, just thought I would share. I've read the first two episodes, and I'm about to read the third. I would comment on the illustrations, but I have nothing to really compare them to. Like I said, I don't normally read comics, so I don't know one artist's style from the next.

My friend also lent me the Art Spiegelman graphic novel Maus. I'll review that one soon too.


  1. I finally decided to write a comment on your blog. I just wanted to say good job. I really enjoy reading your posts.


  2. Thank you for the comment. I was encouraged by a few of my friends to start bloggin' and its turning out to be a pretty cool thing. How bout you, do you write?