Image Comics' "Chew" Satisfies in Early Issues

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Image Comics has apparently satisfied the appetites of readers ready for something new and filling with its newest ongoing series Chew, a comic book focusing on the rapidly developing adventures of Philadelphia police detective Tony Chu and his unique gift for solving crime. In the series, created by John Layman and Rob Guillory, Chu is identified as a cibopath, someone who can get a feeling and a sense of history of anything he eats, an ability that quickly aids him in the first three issues of this series. The series has proven to be a runaway hit for Image, with the first issue already having gone into a third printing and issue two a second printing. The third issue debuted this week, and the story and plot of the series continue to deepen in a way that mixes elements of black comedy with tinges of dark satire as well. In a world where chicken and other meats are outlawed due to a constitutional amendment, the Food and Drug Administration has enormous power over the United States, and Tony Chu quickly finds himself working for the FDA after he is reprimanded for nibbling on the neck of a serial killer in order to get information on the killer's victims. By the way the killer was working as a cook in a "chicken speakeasy" where Chu and his partner John Colby were on stakeout. Ah, the escapism of fantasy! The stakeout brings Chu and Colby into contact with Agent Mason Savoy of the FDA, who encourages the local policemen to give up their pursuit of a man responsible for running an illegal chicken selling operation, citing the FDA's overall jurisdiction in this matter. As the cops enjoy a speakeasy meal, Chu gets a vision from his chicken soup, which leads to the confrontation with the killer mentioned above. Believe me, it was a last ditch effort for information, as we learn in the series that Tony Chu doesn't necessarily enjoy his special power, which leads him to frequently eat beets, the one food he doesn't get a psychic impression from. There are several supporting characters in the series, but they are distinct enough in their personalities and mannerisms to allow the reader ease in focusing on the story at hand rather than having to continually remind themselves as to previous relationships, subtle nuances between characters or unnecessarily complex interconnections. There's Agent Savoy, a dapper dresser with a superb vocabulary, the brash and posturing officer Colby and Mike Applebee, the hard-ass new boss of Chu, who has his own name for his latest ranking boss. There's also the newest presence, and potential love interest, for Tony in the form of food writer Amelia Mintz, whose ability to write about food carries its own special powers as well. All of these characters are quickly complimenting the complex world of our hero, who is struggling to find his footing in a new job with a highly powerful organization. Hints have been dropped so far about bird flu, massive deaths and other things, but the real reason behind the meat ban will obviously have to wait for now. Chu has found himself in the middle of some sticky situations early on in the series, and Layman is crafting a master story, one that readers have been promised will go on for at least twenty-five issues. Another part of Chew's success so far has been Guillory's artwork, which feels very reflective in many places of the process that we undergo while either preparing food or eating it. The multiple panels in these spots feel right, a strong example coming in issue one when Tony's brother, a TV chef, criticizes the government about the chicken ban while demonstrating how to cook with a chicken substitute. The illustrations of Chu's powers are stunning, capturing how overwhelming being able to divine history from food must be for him. Chew works so well, much like a good meal, because of the combination of distinct flavors and complimentary elements involved in its creation. We have a very unique protagonist in Tony Chu, who despite having his psychic abilities is also a stickler for the rules and regulations of his job. The supporting cast has enough unique elements of their own to be additions to, and not domineering shadows of, the main character, and the potential for gross-out fun is also something to consider! The first story arc will be over after two more issues, so those curious should go out and catch up on the fun that awaits!