Chew is a comic by John Layman and Rob Guillory
So if a police officer has a strange and unusual psychic power that lets him learn the history of whatever foodstuff he eats (except beets), you'd figure he'd be sort of handy to have around, right? Especially if there's a lot of underground chicken smuggling going on.
"Just the beets, please."
Tony Chu is just such a person, and when a stakeout and bust of a chicken speakeasy is called off because the FDA is using the person running it as an informant, he and his partner get to have a meal there. Except the serial killer working in the kitchen cuts himself and bleeds into the pot, and Tony finds out about everything with his first mouthful of soup. His partner understands the power, but the bust goes wrong - cleaver into Tony's partner, and in the alley outside the killer cuts his own throat. Tony's pissed - so he chows down on the corpse to make sure he gets the names of all the victims he hadn't yet picked out of the memories of the killer.
"You go into a chicken speakeasy and order something other than chicken they're gonna think you're a cop or an asshole"
That's the intro. This world is bizarre, and it's bizarre for one reason: No chicken. No duck, no goose, and no other fowl. They're illegal. 23 million people in the United States of America and a total of 116 million around the world died in a bird flu pandemic - but some people just don't want to accept that. They think there's a conspiracy of some sort. There very well might be. In the meantime, however, there's a lot of legal and illegal chicken substitutes on the market (chickyn, poult-free) and a lot of chicken bootlegging going on.
"It's a sad fact, and an awful truth. Sometimes, in the course of this job, you're going to eat terrible things, all in the name of justice."
Well, okay it's bizarre for two reasons, and the other is the whole food psychic thing. Cibopaths eat an apple and sense things about it: Which tree it grew on, the type of pesticides used, when the apple was harvested, and so on. Eating meat means getting everything about that... Including the point where it was slaughtered. There's three known Cibopaths in the world, and two of them work for the US government in the Special Crimes Division of the FDA (the third? "He's Serbian and a singularly unpleasant individual"). Tony Chu gets paired up with Mason Savoy, who seems to take the more visceral part his job a little too in stride. But when it comes down to it, if getting the job done means having to eat a putrescent finger, or someone's ashes, or a decomposing dog... then that's what you've got to do, right?
This is a gory book. Really gory. That's why it's fun. But it's also funny, with the plot providing some insane dialogue and also some insane visuals.
"You want to tell me why there's a vacuum-sealed package with a dead dog in it?"
The art is cartoony without being too silly, and emphasises the larger than life story perfectly. There's attempts to be clever, such as the use of a fade in for a visual gag setting up the same effect for a plot point later, and mixing in the prologue with the huge double page flashback so we can see how cibopathy works. Frankly, I'm not overly fussed whether there's too much clever tricks with the art and layout though, because the visuals are just damn fun regardless.
"Hey, circus geek... Maybe this is a case you can handle.
Of course, the plot twists and turns and gets ickier and even more bizarre as it goes, from rancid sushi to the entire city throwing up to French poultry terrorists to llamas to chicken raids to the final twist... and that's volume one. Read it, okay? I have to go and find volume two.