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)
I cautiously approach this comic book for a number of reasons. Comic writers can get weird. Visions and ideas that are off the wall and wholly original simply because they’re completely oddball are a breeding ground at Image Comics. If it’s clever or funny, or outrageously violent or niche Image will let you publish it, and if it succeeds, it’s a win for everyone involved. Man Eaters is out of my wheelhouse. There’s no superheroes or spaceships so I’m automatically out of the loop, but I’m always willing to give a new comic book, especially one getting some community buzz, a read. I’ve spent some time with Image classics in this area like Rat Queens and Paper Girls, and enjoyed them, but both are set within often typical fantasy worlds I can latch onto. Man-Eaters is an utterly ridiculous modern world setting, and that’s just not my forte. So here we go. Strap in for this one.
As it turns out – there’s a new mutation going around out there and somehow it seems to manifest in cat poop. Anyone that’s cleaned a litter box, pet a cat, touched someone that’s pet a cat, and any little thing related has come into contact with this highly mobile mutation. Any girl that has it turns into a giant ferocious cat on her period. Yup. They turn into man-eating kitty cat killers when they’re menstruating and they’re nigh unstoppable. Luckily, the government has created preventative medical treatment that essentially stops woman from menstruating altogether, and hopefully stop the mutations from ever happening. Big cat killings are way down, and while it seems the efforts to stop these big cats from coming out have been mostly successful, there are cases of slip ups, and sometimes it’s simply unavoidable. Our main character Maude is a fairly typical 12 year old girl. Her dad is a CSI working under the authority of SCAT (yup), the organization made specifically for counter-big-cat-events. They’re the big wigs around here and they have the superiority complex to prove it. That’s not really Maude’s problem though, at least until it happens and she becomes one of those 1 in 100,000. Transformation incoming?
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that this was the most comfortable read of my life. It’s weird and way too quirky for me, but I can’t tell you it was bad either. Man-Eaters is incredibly clever and self-aware, and without those elements at their maximum this comic book simply doesn’t work. Some of the current event jokes are perhaps a little outdated. A 12 year old asking for Minecraft money in 2018 is only like a 5 year old reference. If you aren’t making Fortnite jokes when you’re trying to be hip you’re probably off track a little bit. That being said there’s still some great laughs to be had here, and the creative team really lets loose with their nutty ideas. It’s violent, over the top, and wonderfully constructed. There are literally medical diagrams of changes that occur in the human body upon becoming exposed to the mutation, and articles talking about the outbreak, and PSAs talking about prevention and what to do in a kitty cat crisis. It’s absurd and totally respectable. Readers into these quirky Image comics will find something really cool here I think, and I hope it impresses.
(3.5 / 5)
Image just doesn’t stop. It’s kind of crazy in all reality. They’re truly a powerhouse of the independent world, and there’s something oddly consistent about the quality of the comic books they’re putting out. But on top of that, there seems to be no quality over quantity method here or vise versa. The sheer amount of quantity and quality Image is putting out on a weekly basis is borderline unexplainable and whatever they’re doing over there it’s working. Weather Man is really no exception and even though I was skeptical about the creative team and the genre of story going into this comic, The Weather Man is really a shining example of the benefits of this company taking risks and allowing these creative teams to put their ideas to page unfiltered.
Mars has been terraformed and of course taken over by humankind. It’s a technological wonderland and every aspect of it is carefully controlled and kept in order. Mars and its volatile ecosystem likely isn’t the most livable place in the universe so the weather is not only controlled but bought as sold as a commodity. Millionaires can purchase days of rain or sunshine and while that may be morally questionable, it certainly makes reporting the weather pretty easy. Nathan Bright is Mars’ #1 weatherman. He’s casual, suave, care free, and you can see why. Life is pretty easy when there’s no research to be done. Report the weather that’s scheduled to happen and your job is done. Life is pretty good, but of course, not for long. There seems to be more going on with Mars than meets the eye, and when Nathan goes on a date with a new mystery woman life comes full circle as he’s thrown into a life or death situation, running from an unknown bounty hunter with his girlfriend who turns out to be a Mars cop. Turns out Nathan is responsible for the death of near 20 billion people, a terrorist attack that took place sometime in the past. While it’s apparent Nathan has no idea what’s going on or even how / if he actually did, everyone wants his head nonetheless.
There’s something really special with The Weather Man. It’s intelligently written and it’s clever. It knows how to be funny and it knows when to be cool, and it’s certainly not afraid to cross any boundaries. There’s a certain amount of potential I see in this comic that I don’t see in a lot of the other really good comic books. Descender / Rat Queens potential, and I really hope the creative team carries it to fruition because they’ve successfully created a comic book #1 that can truly go anywhere and still work. There’s no obvious or right pathway here and that’s pretty useful for not only the creative team but the people waiting eagerly for every next issue. The Weather Man was an extremely interesting and wonderfully written open ended #1 and that’s always a major win in an over saturated comic book industry. Another win-win for Image.
(4.5 / 5)
Ah yes, my favorite coined term: Imagocalypse, continues with Isola #1, a new fantasy comic written by Brenden Fletcher made famous in recent months by Motor Crush, yet another, but unique image ongoing series. He’s also done some other cool things like Batgirl and Gotham Academy. Anyway, this comic is total eye candy, and like most other Image #1’s you take one look at the inside of the comic book and you’re like “Yup I have to read this.” seriously, this comic book is gorgeous. As much as I rag on Image for their oversaturation of of these comics I can’t deny how appealing to the eye they seemingly always are upon first glance. That being said, does Isola belong in the backlog of my graphic novel list I’ll probably never be able to finish as it grows faster than I can shrink it, or is this a comic I’ll explore further with single issues? My subscription list shrinks all the time as I grow tired of filling my short boxes too fast – so only a select few great titles don’t get relegated to the cheaper graphic novel form. Art won’t carry Isola to victory, even if it gets it close, so hopefully Image delivers again with Isola #1.
We’re thrown into a fantasy world we don’t know a much about, which is a growing trend among these fantasy stories, and we quickly meet Rook, who you can assume is some kind of royal guard, who’s acting as an escort for the Queen of the land, or at least some kind of land. The Queen, for reasons unknown has fallen under some kind of evil spell or curse and has been transformed into a black tiger with blue stripes. It’s somewhat unclear whether or not the Queen can really understand her situation, or even understands our main protagonist, but funny dialogue ensues as Rook tries to communicate with the stubborn and lazy big kitty cat. It’s apparent that the two are on a secret journey of sorts to a land named, ding ding: Isola. As they journey through the perils of a jungle-type wasteland, their relationship keeps their moods uplifted and their preparation keeps Rook’s sword sharp.
First of all, while the cover of this comic book is wonderful to look at, the title of the comic is completely unreadable. Maybe that’s a minute detail to criticize, but googling this comic book originally was actually difficult because the font of the title is so unreadable. It looks like Jsoia or Jsdla, no joke. That’s a problem. Hopefully they’ll fix it or they’re going to be in trouble. The story itself doesn’t have much weight to it yet. There’s a lot of questions and little answered in this first issue. In the case of a good comic, writers can get away with that annoying trait, and like I mentioned earlier it’s a quickly growing trend among these stories. Luckily the quirky personality of the Queen in lion form and the relationship between these two main characters, as well as the art carry the otherwise confusing and overly unexplanatory first issue. I can’t really say whether I think there’s something truly special here. With comics like Descender and Diesel, it was apparent from the very beginning the comic book would be a hit. This one, is a little harder to tell. However, there’s a great creative team with an obviously fleshed out story with a lot of issues ahead of them, so keep your eyes on Isola, and we’ll see where it goes from here.
(4 / 5)
Welcome back to Imagocalypse with another new #1 and ongoing series from the ever growing publisher Image comics. Oversaturation is a bit of an understatement with a new series hitting shelves on an almost consistent weekly basis, but it’s hard to pass it all off as a bad thing when so many of them are compelling and written by current comic A list writers. Rick Remender (Tokyo Ghost, Low, Seven to Eternity) is back for Death or Glory #1, and while I wonder if he’s a robot or something with his ability to simultaneously write such good content, I soak up everything he does with excitement. Death or Glory moves away from his typical fantasy style and brings him into the real world in what looks like current time, so we’re already shaking things up from his usual template. So, with little doubt, I’m sure yet another Image #1 will come out of the gates swinging.
Death or Glory takes place in Yuma, Arizona, depicted as a somewhat final frontier for the American dirt road. Bikers, mechanics, truckers, and all car driving enthusiasts gather here to live away from the grid, living off the grit and grime of it all. It feels disjointed from the law and like many movies, comics, games, etc. of this style everything really kind of governs itself, and so, so much its people. Glory is tough, battle hardened and isn’t afraid to get dirty if she needs to, so as her father lives his final days on his deathbed in need of a life saving surgery they can’t afford, Glory takes to the road to steal from those who have wronged them in the past. It quickly becomes clear that these ‘victims’ of Glory’s desperate heists are no saints, rather it’s fairly obvious that they’re pretty much scumbags, but the extent of their scumbaggery extents further beyond Glory’s expectations and she quickly finds herself in over her head. As she stumbles upon something far more dangerous than she was ever willing or planning to find, she’s stuck in an awkward position, and now she has to get out alive.
Death or Glory is a strangely captivating comic, and that’s primarily due to Remender’s work. Similarly to Low, it’s hard to put this comic book down once you’ve started. Every piece of dialogue feels vital to the story, and although Bengal is a godly artist himself, Remender has an amazing ability to bring out an incredible amount of emotion in the characters demeanor and faces to pair up with his dialogue. Additionally, Glory is really cool. Remender does a great job in making awesome protagonists out of regular characters, and although Glory is a rough and tumble street kid, she’s vulnerable and inexperienced in many ways. She’s damn good at driving and outskilling her competition, but the risk and the moral questionability of her actions take an obvious toll on her, and that makes for a way more interesting character than most comic book characters today. Death and Glory is not my genre, and yet it’s an obviously special comic book. Don’t sleep on this or anything Rick Remender’s doing, the dude’s in his prime.
(5 / 5)