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Still feeling as though my trade paperback collection is in its infancy, I tend to stick with what I know. A Batman trade here, a few Superman trades there, and a couple Green Lantern trades thrown in the mix as well. While randomly browsing trades during an online session I came across something outside my usual comfort zone with a description that caught my attention and would not let go until I clicked “add to cart”.
This captivating statement in the product description was the sole reason for my purchase: “…Tony Chu is Cibopathic, which means he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats…he’s a hell of a detective, as long as he doesn’t mind nibbling on the corpse of a murder victim to figure out whodunit.” If that statement didn’t take hold of your interest completely and conjure a variety of images and stories that could stem from it, then you are obviously less disturbed than I.
Despite such an intriguing description, upon the arrival of Taster’s Choice I hesitated before reading. Would this book stand up to half the expectations posed by its promising description? Would this premise become a crutch that the writer would depend ad nauseam? Fortunately, my concerns were quickly laid to rest after reading the very first couple of pages. It was clear that the author had intended this “Cibopath” to work well outside his unfortunate gift.
The premise is Tony Chu (get it?) is a detective who is able to eat any object to establish a telepathic link to its history. If he eats an apple, for instance, he knows where it came from, the gender of the person who picked it, and the color of the truck that delivered it. His talents are put to use in the highest law office in the government: the FDA. In the world of Chew, the Food and Drug Administration is the most powerful organization in the United States due to the illegalization of poultry consumption, thanks to an avian flu epidemic which killed millions.
Now, instead of street pushers in back allies and kingpins in seedy clubs profiting from narcotics, their main focus is the illegal trading and selling of any poultry related items. Chicken speakeasies are home to many neighborhoods now with only the privileged few allowed in. To discuss the actual stories contained in this collection with more depth would reveal too much. Suffice to say the stories are varied and in this five issue set touch on the topics of love, death, aliens, vampires, killer Russians, and Government Conspiracy Theories.
John Layman (Marvel Zombies vs, Army of Darkness, Puffed) does a first-class job of building a meek yet likable character who due to his “gifts” finds himself in many an odd situation. He continues to keep the stories fresh from issue to issue. Each one reminds me of one of many popular crime dramas that feature a prologue, or snippet, of the story to come up front to grab your attention and make you think “What is going on here?” He then leads you through a well paced detective buddy story that mixes drama and comedy effortlessly.
As easy as it might be to do so, Layman does not rely on a “gross factor” to keep this title interesting. The subject matter may be over the top, but I never felt like he was using any cheap tactics to build a “wow” factor. Each issue connects to an overall arching story that deepens later in the collection, but also features solid, individual self-contained plots. Unlike many trades I did not find myself confronted with a cliffhanger at the end of each issue and was pleased that I could set the book down without feeling a jarring break in narrative.
Newcomer artist Rob Guillory has done an amazing job with this book and I feel has actually contributed more to the feel of the story than his partner. Not to take anything away from Layman, but Guillory has a fantastic way of conveying the emotions of the characters in any situation with his wonderful layouts. His color and lines do have a very distinct feel however and may not fit everyone’s taste perfectly, but it complements Chew better than any style I could imagine. The action scenes are top notch, and despite not being chock-full of action, Guillory is able to demonstrate any movement with ease and better than many classic superhero comics.
The author has created a wonderful world without relying too heavily on the hook of the story, being a detective who eats gross things for clues. Chew Vol1: Taster’s Choice is a pleasant surprise from two fairly unknown creators. Volumes 2 and 3 [as well as 4, 5 and 6! -ed.] are already available and if similar in caliber to this first volume, are sure to be a “treat.”
This new title from Image Comics has more then grabbed my attention and is definitely worth a read. With the foundation that is in place, I hope this duo continues to produce fantastic stories with their wide range of topics and cast. 4 out of 5.
It’s entirely self contained and the start of this new series.
Chew Volume 1: Taster’s Choice is the first trade to read for your Cibopath fix.
Chew Volume 2: International Flavor is next on the list, or you may instead purchase Chew: Omnivore Edition Volume 1, a hardcover bound collection of both Volume 1 and Volume 2.