Friday, April 2, 2010

Review: Chew: Taster's Choice

Chew: Taster's Choice is a graphic novel written by John Layman and drawn by Rob Guillory. It stars Tony Chu, a detective with a strange talent. Tony is "Cibopathic", meaning he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. If he eats an apple, he gets a feeling in his head about what tree it came from, what pesticides were used, and when it was harvested. If he eats say a cow, or a chicken, well, you can imagine what the psychic impressions he might get from that. The only thing he can eat that doesn't cause this reaction is beets. (I'm sure Schrute Farms is happy to hear this news.) Tony's power, or special skill, or curse, or whatever you want to call it, helps make him a hell of a long as he doesn't mind taking a bite out of a murder victim to help solve a mystery.

Thanks to his special skill set, Tony has been recruited by the FDA, yes that FDA, which is a powerful law enforcement agency now thanks to a recent avian flu epidemic that has killed millions world-wide and has led to world-wide chicken prohibition. Said prohibition has led to massive amounts of black market chicken dealers, and is the new cash cow or cash chicken in this case, for crime-lords. While at work for the FDA, Tony teams up with the gigantic, monocled Agent Savoy, who shares Tony's special ability, to investigate some bizarre cases.

As you can see from the plot synopsis, Chew is a graphic novel that comes with a big sense of humor. I really enjoyed the blend of compelling crime-fiction with the over the top style of humor. There were multiple moments where this book made me laugh out loud. Whether it be Tony catching a face-full of vomit while he falls in love, or Agent Savoy coating himself, Tony and a female coroner in the fan-blown ashes of a dead senator, this book has a dark, somewhat taboo sense of humor that is rarely found.

Sure, Chew also has its share of "eww" moments, moments that in other settings would just be disgusting, but in most cases, this only served to add to the humorous feel of the book, and the artist, Guillory generally depicts these scenes with a cartoonish feel that never left me feeling ill, and only made me chuckle.

Guillory's art is one of the major aspects that makes Chew stand out from the comic crowd. His art has a cartoon-like feel to it that reminded me a bit of the Ren and Stimpy cartoon from back in the day. Oftentimes, his art alone was enough to make me giggle and give me that feeling of joy I got from watching Saturday morning cartoons as a kid. Chew however, is not anything like your standard Saturday morning cartoon fare. It simply evoked that giddy feeling of visual humor.

The thing I liked most about reading Chew: Taster's Choice is that it was a lot of fun to read. The writing is great, and I felt myself immediately drawn into Tony's world. It is rare that I finish a book or a Graphic Novel and have the desire to read the next installment, or the next in the series right now, but Chew gave me this feeling. Too bad the second Graphic Novel doesn't hit shelves until late July.

Though it is still somewhat early in the year, Chew: Taster's Choice has made a firm case to be named in my Top 5 rankings at the end of 2010. I loved it.

Grade: A

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