For all the focus Chew’s writer and co-creator John Layman had initially put on the main character - heck, his name is basically there in the title - it’s surprising and incredibly pleasing to see how far he’s come in fleshing out the supporting cast. Take issue #26 of the series, which barely featured Tony Chu at all, and instead focuses on his siblings, Toni and Chow.
Because the issue doesn’t come out until Wednesday, I’m going to carefully skirt around spoilers here, but suffice to say that as a long time reader and liker - but maybe not lover - of this series... I loved this issue. Just to be clear: Chew is solid entertainment, and at it’s best, presents some of the most bizarre ideas in comics in the most comically banal ways possible. It’s often laugh out loud funny, and the sort of quirky fun only comic books can provide (though that’ll change potentially once Showtime finishes developing Chew as a series, of course). So I like it, but for a good chunk of the run, I’ve been holding back from falling in love with the book the way a lot of critics and fans have.
Maybe it’s the ridiculousness of the situations - a world without chicken isn’t your usual post-apocalyptic scenario - that makes me feel like Chew suffers from a bit of emotional detachment. But when it delivers, it delivers a wallop, like in the superb Chew #15, which brought Tony’s whole family together under one roof.
And maybe that’s why I liked that particular issue - and this one - so much. When Layman, along with artist Rob Guillory tackle Tony Chu’s family, the book soars beyond being set in a goofy world where the FDA is the most powerful law enforcement agency, and instead lays down some gods honest truth about the way we relate to our families: that on a whole, we f-ing hate them... But we also, if not love them unequivocally, tolerate them unequivocally.
So, that out of the way, this issue teams up Chow and Toni, and shows off their own unique powers, explores their relationship with Tony without ever having him speak a word, and presents a new level of insane food based powers into the Chew universe. Plus, there’s a cliffhanger that amps up the danger for pretty much every character involved in the book, from the two featured in this issue, to Tony himself.
And that’s another thing the book has been lacking: a real primary antagonist, a driving force if you will. Not every book needs fighting, but it’s occasionally been unclear what Tony is fighting for, or against. As this is the first part of the “Space Cakes” arc, that antagonist may be dealt with by the end...
...Or maybe not. Because as fate would have it, we’ve read the next issue of Chew, as well. Not through back alley means or anything: one of the stranger things Layman has done with the series is that after issue eighteen was released, the next issue was #27. The issue after this one. The second part of the Space Cakes arc. Weird, right? But having a little glimpse of the future means that we know Tony Chu is confined to a hospital bed; we know the focus is again on Toni; and we know that... Well, I’m not going to say any more about #27, because we will start to get into spoilers for #26, which hurt my brain to even type. Point is, even if you’ve seen the future, it doesn’t mean you understand it... Yet.
And that said? If you’ve never picked up Chew before, or liked it rather than loved it like I have, give it another chance with issue #26. It’s a great way of jumping on board, and one of the cleanest, clearest issues of the series yet. Granted, it does go a little crazy again with the next issue... But you already knew that.
Chew #26 hits comic book stands on May 23rd!