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The start of a new Chew arc finally brings Tony Chu back into the fore. Sure, he had an appearance a few issues ago where he was tripping on drugs while Toni and Caesar used him to solve a crime, but the previous arc really seemed to be missing something while Chu was in the hospital. The last issue was a real doozy, but was a great example of why I love indie comics. John Layman is also currently writing Detective Comics but none of the main characters there will ever be allowed to permanently die. The closest they ever came was Jason Todd and he’s been back for years now. And, because John Layman likes to put the screw to us, Toni dies in a most excruciating death following a horrible torture.
This issue begins at Toni’s funeral and Layman has the tough task of putting us into an emotional wild ride. We start off with the pain Tony Chu feels at losing his twin as well as revisiting a previous loss in his life. But it ends with Chu and Colby on yet another wacky food-related case. Layman does such a good job that we don’t realize we’re on a rollercoaster being carted up to the top of the drop. And when we fall it’s surprising and fun and refreshing. He could have dedicated an entire issue to Chu wallowing in misery (I am pretty sure quite a few comics would have done that - Dragon Ball Z cartoon-style), but he spends just the right amount of time.
Realizing how well he’s handled the drama in what is otherwise a comedy gives me pause to reflect on how this will feel to future readers who have the benefits of trades and omnibuses to plow through the entire story over a couple weekends. After all, in my recollection, Chu starts off as a light-hearted comedy about a guy with a sadistic boss who makes him eat dead people and scientists who cross frogs with chickens. Reading it one month at a time, the change for the dramatic has been subtle. I wonder if the trade readers will feel whiplash.
Given that this is the first issue of a new arc, I’d prefer not to spoil too much. My sole disappointment comes from the fact that we finally get Chu back, but since it’s the first issue of an arc, Chu doesn’t get to do much. He spends essentially spends the first third of the book standing at the funeral thinking and having people talk at him/to him. The good news is that the second ⅔ are more of the Chew we know and love and it also seems to finally tie back into the strange writing in the sky that was never properly dealt with.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you to look for the self-portrait of Rob Guillory. I only recognized it because he was on the back cover of Image books a few months ago. (On that page where they have a quote from the creators) While I’m mentioning Rob, I’m sad that there weren’t any office spaces in this comic. I LOVE the little jokes he puts on the post-its, office notices, etc that I catch on my second read-throughs. There are some good ones here, but the office ones are usually the best.
If you aren’t reading Chew you’re crazy! Go get some trades or get the issues on ComiXology and get caught up!