With the original 60 issue run of Chew, John Layman regaled readers with the story of lawman and cibopath, Tony Chu. What started off as a bizarre enough concept for a buddy/cop parody spiralled in to an epic saga spanning the globe, and beyond and establishing a circus full of colourful characters ripe for returning to one day and further serving. That day isn’t quite yet, but in the meantime, we get Chu #1, a rather wonderful side-order that will offer up both the familiar and the unfamiliar, starting with this series’ star, Saffron Chu, a criminal cibopars – able to learn secrets from who she eats with. Which comes in handy, I imagine, when you’re in her field of expertise.
Joining Layman on this outing is new-to-American comics, Dan Boultwood, and a cartoonish style more than appropriate for this book. With Rob Guillory (busy with his own Image Comics’ series, Farmhand) you had a world of exaggeration and grotesqueries that only helped cement Chew as one of the few beautifully bonkers books of the early 21st century, but with Boultwood, there is more of a smoother edge to his characters. More Chester Gould (Dick Tracy) than Jack Davis (MAD Magazine) in his execution and, as I’ve stated before, an ideal starting point should anyone ever consider an animate version of this madcap shared universe. It reminds me somewhat of the Clerks: The Animated Series cartoons of the 90s, which I absolutely loved. The humour too. There is an effortless, elegant economy of line that Boultwood has clearly refined over the years on his own self-published comics and it’s a great new look for this book, immediately distancing itself from what Guillory and Layman had crafted together and establishing something new and refreshing too.
We open up on Layman’s take on the classic heist movie, blending and bending the common conventions of the genre as seen in such films as Reservoir Dogs (each member of this crew has an appropriate codename), Ocean’s 11 (there’s seven of ‘em in the gang, just like in this modern day classic) and the explanation of the heist for readers to listen in as seen in every single heist movie there ever was! But, with the odd superpower or two thrown in for good measure. Hey, this is comics after all! Anything goes, and usually does in a Layman scripted book. It’s one of the things I love about any Layman book, you can never quite guess what will happen next. See Outer Darkness/Chew for recent evidence of that, when Tony finds out he is a holograph in the send issue. I dare anyone to say they saw that one coming.
But, I digress.
Layman is wise enough to include the odd familiar face that totally anchors this series to the Chewniverse. Oh, and the heist does involve food, so there’s that too.
All in all, it’s a great first issue, that offers up the odd mystery and a pace fitting of a heist. With the promise of revealing why Saffron was never mentioned by her brother – or any of their immediate family either – and a story seemingly set before the Chew seres even began, this will be enough for most long-term fans of Chew to stick around for over this 5 issue run. For others, like me coming late to Chew through the trades, it will be the humour, the cool characters and the art.
Chu #1 is out this Wednesday 22nd July from Image Comics.