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Friday, April 26, 2013

What I'm Reading: Series Round-Up-- Chew Volume 3

As you can see from my reviews of the first two compiled "Omnivore Editions," I am a huge fan of the graphic novel series Chew written by John Layman and drawn by Rob Guillory.

Just what is Chew?  Well you can click here and here to see my posts on Volumes 1 and 2.  I also described the series this way at the PLA 2012 conference:

Welcome to a near future dystopia where a horrible bird flu has killed millions of people, and now, chicken as a food source has been completely outlawed for our own safety.  Or, as we come to question, is that just what the government is telling us? Why? What is the big secret?  Enter Tony Chu, a cibopath, a term that means he can get a psychic impression from whatever he eats.  It also means that if he is willing to eat corpses, he can solve just about any case.  Tony's powers move him to the biggest, baddest government agency in this new world...the FDA!  His job is to stop illegal chicken consumption; however, his powers have created many enemies who are out to get him. Such is the original, dark world of the graphic novel series Chew by John Layman and illustrated by Rob Guillory. This is a dark, character driven story with cliff hangers, shocking plot twists, dark humor, and an extremely interesting frame.  But it is not for the weak stomached.

Since you have had plenty of chances to click here and see the previous reviews,  I am going to move right on in to this third compendium of a year's worth of serial comics.  I felt like this volume brought together all of the strings from the many story lines set up in Volumes 1 and 2 and began knitting the cloth that is the main story of this series.

Let me explain.  Volumes 1 and 2 introduced a ton of quirky characters and set up the world, but it was beginning to feel fractured to me by the end of Volume 2.  I had too many story lines, too many conflicts, too many issues floating around in my head.  Ahh, but I have to give Layman credit.  He knew what he was doing.  Just when I felt the series was getting too busy without going anywhere...BAM!  This compendium was all about taking the loose ends and bringing them into the fold.  We now have one story.

Also, new to Volume 3, Tony has finally been fired by his boss and moved from the FDA to a traffic cop.

The series is still part speculative fiction, part alternate reality, part dystopia, part crime fiction with lots of tongue in cheek humor (see traffic cop comment above) and great, colorful, rich, pictures.  The characters have come a long way too.  They began as merely interesting and quirky, but have now been fleshed out both in drawing and writing.

In fact, now is a good time to mention the illustrator, Guillory.  He has really blossomed in this series. The pictures are beautiful; they add to the story in their vibrancy, playfulness, and detail.  They are useful to moving the story along.  You need to spend time examining the pictures on each page if you want to get the full depth of the story, but they are also so vivid and eye catching that you want to linger.  I see Guillory's talent growing with each book.

A perfect example of the appeal of this series in writing and art, as I have been trying to describe it, is best seen in the extra standalone comic featuring POYO, a secret agent, assassin, bionic chicken. This issue is included in the Omnivore Edition Volume 3. Here is a picture of POYO.  Again, it fully captures the tone of the series.

In general, the speculative world is also getting rounder.  New powers and details are being added.  I would say this is great time to start the series and read all three volumes. If you are not sure (because I have to admit, the frame is a bit on the odd side) read the first issue in Volume 1.  You will know right away if it is for you or not.  If you like it, you should read all 3 "Omnivore" Compendiums

I should mention a few limiters beyond it being "odd."  The series is a bit gory and gross, I mean, the cibopaths take bites out of dead people to find out who killed them.  There is violence and sex, but I would say of the PG13 variety; there is no nudity, but there are people in lingerie, and there are people being split in two. This volume, while advancing the overall story, also has a solid and complete mystery line of its own which involves Tony being kidnapped for an interesting reason.

This is a series I will be sticking with.  I am hungry (pun intended) for more.

Three Words That Describe This Book: offbeat, great characters, rich illustrations

Readalikes:  I have many readalikes if you click here including novels and graphic novels. But I still have a few new ideas.

The offbeat tone with a alternative reality frame reminds me of Seth Grahame-Smith, specifically Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and Unholy Night.  If you like Layman's crazy story lines, I think Grahame-Smith is a nice compliment.

If you like the mystery angle with an original premise and alternative reality setting, Ben Winter's The Last Policeman is a nice match.

And finally, another graphic novel suggestion is the Astro City series by Kurt Busiek which presents short stories about Astro City and the superheroes and citizens who live there.  It is a compelling series with some mystery aspects, lots of offbeat, dark humor, and a SF, alternative reality frame.

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