Ah, CHEW. Delightful, delicious, macabre, whimsical, disgusting, hilarious, dramatic CHEW! There are few books that can balance an incredible sense of humor and downright whimsy with not just some real, genuine drama, but even balance the KIND of humor and drama it trades in. From witty to grossout and from intense action to incredible loss, CHEW is a book that’s got it all. This issue steers us back into the overarching plot of the entire series, but does so in its own trademark way of standing well on its own. John Layman gives us two storylines, one with Tony Chu in an undersea base trying to solve the murder of the Navy’s top seal Sammich J. Harper while John Colby is welcomed into a new family. A literal family. The two storylines only intersect on a phonecall, but both have some very, very major plot developments that I won’t get into due to spoilers, but both are written with an eye for economic dialog. It’s never boring and it’s actually amazing how easily it weaves the narratives while finding plenty of time for humor and wit as well as a great twist or two.
The art on Chew has always been instrumental to the overall tone and storytelling, one of the reasons that Rob Guillory has been on the title so very consistently and this issue is no exception. Much has been made, and rightly so, of the background jokes that permeate every page, almost every panel, of every issue and this one’s no exception. The art is gorgeous and so incredibly detailed that it BAFFLES me how this book comes out as on-time as it does. The character designs have always been a huge part of what makes the drama and humor work so well together: when your characters are this expressive all the time, it’s easy to communicate both over-the-top humor as well as incredibly heartwrenching sorrow, though the latter is mostly absent this issue. The colors are vibrant and crisp, with incredible detail and nuance to go along with the sharp, defined linework. We also get another Poyo two-page spread and somehow the joke is JUST as funny EVERY time with a Duck Tales joke thrown in for good measure.
There’s not much to dislike about this issue. I was concerned about the overall plot taking a backseat to more one-shot antics, but that doesn’t happen at all and I can’t find anything to complain about.
Even if you missed last issue, jumping on this one won’t be a problem as long as you’re reasonably caught up. This is a series absolutely worth starting at the beginning for, however, as seeing the characters develop and grow over 42 issues (8 volumes collected in trade) makes every future issue rewarding on a whole other level. Despite the over-the-top visuals, this is one of the best developed, consistently well told stories in comics.