Thursday, March 10, 2011

Trade Waiting – Chew Vol 3: Just Desserts

Chew truly is an amazing comic. It’s smart and gorgeous and something you just have to try in trade form if you haven’t dropped in for the monthly experience. One bite, like say the first trade or the second trade, and you’ll be hooked, surely, but by the time it gets to the third trade, things start to get serious. This comic really looks even more for the long form and it’s just one better step to solidifying this series as one of the best things coming out of Image right now. Hit the jump to see why this third trade is just as good as the first two.


Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

The first two trades of Chew felt like they mostly stood on their own. They tied into the grander scale but still painted their own picture with what they showed. It was a smart move to introduce people to this world in that way but by the third trade they should be hooked so the creative team behind this brilliant comic have decided to up the motion and really play to the long form.

Just Desserts isn’t so much a complete tale as it is a chapter in the larger narrative of this world. Plot points from before are stretched out and new plot points are introduced. The mix is perfectly tuned and makes this feel like a really good issue, it transports you from what has come to what will be. The fighting chicken from the last arc, yeah, it gets a run. The ongoing worry of rogue agent Mason Savoy working free, that’s totally woven into the main section of the story. Tony Chu’s new girlfriend, the relationship is growing slowly but surely.

The best aspect of this comic, the part that really sets it apart from the usual fare in the racks, is the way Layman manipulates and controls the narrative. Aspects of this story are fractured, and shuffled, and basically forced into your brain in new ways. Yet none of this is mere trickery, Layman plays each sleight of hand with purpose. If a sequence from the final act comes first it is because Layman is altering the chemistry of the drama. He’s doing something fun and new with the story and everything is heightened because of it.

Another aspect to make you love this book is the humour. The interpersonal interactions between, well, everyone, is played for amusing-to-hilarious effect. Layman doesn’t write gags, he writes funny people and funny lines. He creates insane situations, he makes a comic that is a horror-drama at its core and still breaks the violence and cannibalism with giggles to outright guffaws. But then he drops a moment that you don’t see coming that actually floors you.

One moment of Tony Chu’s past comes back to haunt him and while that seems visceral enough it then leads to something even bigger that you really won’t see coming. It’s a personally gigantic moment wrapped inside a possibly larger, global, event. The layers of story are tempered and measured and very well dosed. This is how more comics should work their tales, and it’s nice to see Chew get the opportunity to do what they want and how they want to.

Tony Chu continues to develop as a character and his actions and growth here only serve to make him one of the most intricate and detailed men of the four colour world. He most often plays like a real man with very many real flaws. He acts with true purpose, and intense desire, and while he works within the narrative and pushes it forward he also constantly stays true to who he is, and sometimes who you want him to be. He can be sweet but then he’ll lick the blood at a crime scene involving his partner because he knows he has to do his job and get to the bottom of the violence he sees through his work.

The supporting cast of Chew are all great and the more you read the more you understand anything is possible in this world. Nothing is ever going to be truly out of the sphere of possibility and whenever something like a cybernetic face reconstruction or ‘fricken’ (mixed frog and chicken DNA) comes along it doesn’t feel out of place. This is a fantasyland where anything can happen and that opens up your expectations and levels of enjoyment exponentially.

Am I the only one that sees a real Miles and Sawyer vibe from LOST between Chu and his partner, Colby? It's not cose enough to be a rip off, or even an homage, but the physicality is certainly there and the back and forth is just as good.

Rob Guillory. That’s all you need to say. He is dominating each and every issue and he might just become my favourite artist working outside the spandex crowd today. His art is rich and full and vibrant with character and story. His anatomy isn’t perfect but its quirky lines and zany posture enhance every scene. Not a moment is missed and that’s something to be appreciated.

It helps that he controls the colours as well because he can truly light a scene exactly as he wants and the fiery panels of arguments and anger really tear out of the page like you can feel the spittle and heat. This comic looks like no other and that’s the highest compliment I can bestow.

Verdict – Must Read. When this title first launched I really wasn’t sure of exactly what it could do. A world with avian flu and cibopaths who could gain a mental link with the history of the food they were eating. It seemed too weird to truly understand, or appreciate. And I’ve spent a lot of time since then realising I was completely wrong. This third trade, with its ability to take all the ingredients and mix them into a new recipe that only promises more courses, excites and amazes me on equal levels. This is exactly what an independent comic should be like. This isn’t a superhero tale and it follows none of those tropes. This is smart and very high quality comics. This is the sort of thing people say they want – well, here it is. Enjoy.

Like this review? Interested in Chew Vol 3: Just Desserts? Buy it on and help support The Weekly Crisis!

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