Chew: Making Cannibalism Fun!

 

Chew is a long-running comic series, with its first issue released in 2009 and its final trade volume coming out earlier this year. It centers on Tony Chu, an agent for the FDA, which has become the most powerful agency in the U.S. government following an avian flu epidemic that created a death toll in the tens of millions and led to a complete ban on chicken. Tony is a cibopath, meaning he learns the history of anything he eats, a power that can be troublesome eating normal food–so, of course, his job involves taking bites out of murder victims. At the very beginning of the story, his partner, John Colby, takes a meat cleaver to the head that was aimed at Tony; Colby doesn’t just live, he comes back with half a face turned cybernetic.

 

It only gets weirder.

 

Chew is a prime example of where indie comics excel. It has a storyline with a designed ending point, and characters that aren’t going to be reborn in a whole new universe because the writers at Image can’t come up with any new ideas (although crossovers are still a thing). They can take chances on weirdness because if they overstep somewhere, no one’s hovering over their shoulders screaming, “YOU BORKED SUPERMAN!!!” Blended with a heavy dose of rock-solid comedic timing, Chew ends up being tremendously entertaining.

 

There are a couple of things that may end up bothering some people. One is that the most noteworthy deaths are of women. The female characters are pretty much all great when they’re alive, which balances this out somewhat, but there’s a bit of a ‘women in refrigerators’ aspect when they die in the same world that takes men with fatal injuries and Bionic Man’s them instead of letting them go too.

 

In addition, some people are going to be aggravated by Miso Honey, Tony’s sibling. ‘Miso Honey’ is introduced as the stage name of Tony’s brother Harold. Alright, so Harold is a drag queen? Sure, that works. Except Harold’s gender is brought into question with descriptions like ‘Tony’s brother/sister’, and the character is basically treated as a sideshow piece. Even that might be ok if all this was put to use in a storyline, e.g. something revolves around Harold, and Tony enters a part of the world he doesn’t understand and is deeply uncomfortable with. That never happens, though. Harold merely exists for chuckles, and the chuckles are based on belonging to a group that routinely gets crapped on anyway. No matter your opinion on writing or joking about marginalized groups in general, in this instance it feels like you’re being drawn in to help bully somebody, and it doesn’t feel too good.

 

And that’s unfortunate, because otherwise Chew is fantastic. If you can ignore a few instances of poor taste, the rest of it is definitely worth your time.

 

(4.3 / 5)

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