Publisher: Image Comics
Writer/Lettering: John Layman
Artist/Colours: Dan Boultwood
Release Date: 22nd July 2020
Tony Chu is a Cibopath, able to gain psychic impressions from anything he eats. Saffron Chu is a Cibopars, able to obtain secrets from those she eats with. Tony is a cop and his sister Saffron is a criminal. When a botched heist leads to murder and betrayal, Tony and Saffron will find themselves on a collision course.
If like me you are new to the world of Tony Chu, then I think you’re in for a treat. I am a big fan of John Layman’s work; I loved Leviathan and I still hope for the remaining issues to be released (hint hint), and I’m a huge fan of Outer Darkness. However, Chew and its extended world has managed to elude me until now.
If you haven’t read any of the Chew series before then to give you a brief overview, this is a noir crime series set in a world where the consumption of chicken and other bird meat is illegal following an outbreak of bird flu which left tens of millions dead in its wake. When Tony Chu, a vice cop catching chicken smugglers, sits down and eats a bowl of chicken soup at a restaurant he’s investigating, he gets a psychic vision of the chef killing people to put in his dishes. When he confronts the chef he kills himself so Tony does the only logical thing (right?) and eats the chef’s tongue to find out who his victims were. This unsurprisingly gets him fired, but he is swiftly employed by the FDA as an investigator by a man who shares the same “gifts”.
If you are a regular reader of Layman and the Chew series in particular then you know that madness, mayhem, the ridiculous and the grotesque are the order of the day and Chu is certainly no exception. Saffron’s crew could have stepped out of the 1960s Batman series or a classic Dick Tracy issue. From the homunculus Mr. Baker to the Frankenstein’s Monster-like Mr. Knife, even the hirsute and 1970s porn-stash’d FBI agent is a sight to behold.
This introductory issue has a vibe of Quentin Tarantino about it, and John Layman refers to it in terms of the relationship between Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul; not just in the obvious comparison of the way the crew are named, but also in the delivery of the almost cinematic staging of the panels. This is something I’ve always enjoyed about reading Layman’s stories, the way you are led from panel to panel, the action, the perspectives, and the way the differing threads of the story weave and combine.
Having done a little background reading, diving into the first volume of the original series this week, the artwork seems to be exactly what you would expect to see if you are a regular reader. I believe that the original volumes were illustrated by Rob Guillory, however Dan Boultwood is helming the artwork this time and it’s a really great effort which embodies everything that made Guillory’s work so much fun. Boultwood also adds something of his own style to the mix to highlight that while being of the same Chew universe (Chewniverse?), this series is very much its own beast.
If you’re a long time reader of the series then I think that this is going to be right up your alley. It promises to deliver a fun new twist on the established premise, and is off to an explosive start here. If you’re a new reader then starting here is as good a place as any, and not having read any of the rest of the series won’t spoil your enjoyment at all. If however, like me you haven’t read any of the previous stories then I simply cannot recommend enough that you dive in right away, there’s twelve volumes to catch up on.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek