I'm more or less retired from comic book reviewing, but I felt like Chew, the new Image book from John Layman and Rob Guillory, really should have its own dedicated post.
Remember when you first discovered Transmetropolitan, or Preacher, or The Goon? And you thought, this is so weird, so beautifully illustrated and so great, you were both simultaneously blown away by the book and amazed that it made it through the meat grinder of comics to the shelves where people could buy it?
Chew is like that. It joins Proof and Walking Dead as the cream of the crop of Image's line of comics, and I honestly believe, based on the first two issues, that it's as good as Transmetropolitan and The Goon, despite being quite different.
John Layman has come up with a great premise that combines the Avian Flu scare, governmental over-reaction and bureaucracy, a touch of science-fiction, good old fashioned cop procedural stories and (as almost always with Layman) a bit of black humor. And probably the most unique thing about the book is that it encompasses food and eating along with law enforcement and the Yakuza. I mean, this is the first part of the solicit for the third issue:
"Amelia Mintz is a food critic and a Saboscrivner. That means she can write about food so accurately, so vividly and with such precision, people get the actual sensation of taste when reading her restaurant reviews. Since the government prohibition of poultry, she’s lost her enthusiasm for the culinary world, and only reviews restaurants with a “D” rating or less from the Health Department. Her last review caused half the city to projectile-vomit, and sent hundreds to the hospital with severe food poisoning."
See what I mean? Saboscrivner, a reviewer who can give people the sensation of eating whatever food she's reviewing? That's a cool sci-fi concept. Her act of rebellion against the government's actions is that she used her talent to cause food poisoning, and only reviews bad restaurants? Tell me that doesn't sound like the best kind of wild idea we got from Warren Ellis's vision of the future in Transmetropolitan. Then there's the other half of the solicit:
"Agent Tony Chu has been assigned to arrest Amerlia Mintz, but there’s just one problem with that… he’s madly in love with her!"
Tony Chu, a hapless protagonist with an unusual talent, is a great lead. You sympathize with the guy, because he wants to do the right thing, but at the same time he's got that same "lovable loser" thing that almost makes him the sidekick in the book to the more capable agent who recruited him into the FDA.
Then there's Rob Guillory's artwork, and the best thing I can do here is point you to his blog, where you can see some of his work:.
I truly believe that Chew is a strong contender for best new book of 2009. I'm not the only one, because the first printing of the first issue has been going for crazy money on eBay. But Image is doing things right with reprints, and so the first three issues (new #3, 2nd print of #2, 3rd print of #1) will be available in just a few weeks at your local comics shop. Do yourself a favor and check them out.