Review by Karl Verhoven
The backround against which Chew is set is a United States down 23 million citizens after an outbreak of bird flu, which has resulted in the outlawing of all poultry. As an FDA agent Tony Chu is one of those charged with enforcing that edict. So far it’s provided a funny backdrop, but appeared to be no more than that, yet John Layman keeps referencing it, and now it seems there is more to this than whimsy. That actually applies to so much of Chew. What seems to be on the page just for the sake of a good joke later has significance.
That can’t be claimed for the background scribbles Rob Guillory plasters all over his art, but they’re sure fun to take in. The Simpsons-style notes on a cookery class blackboard constantly change from “Urine is not a cooking ingredient!!” to “Baking should not end in head trauma”, an injured agent reads Female Eyepatch Monthly, and the framed prints in the FDA briefing room read “FDA: We punch faces” and “FDA: We kick throats”. Of course, they’d not be as good were Guillory not the full cartooning package, yet he is.
Just Desserts ended with giant flaming shapes in the atmosphere encircling the planet. They may be some form of alien writing, but no-one has yet been able to decipher the meaning, at least no-one whose sanity is intact.
If that’s not incredible enough, step back and admire the wonder of how Layman constantly reinvents his cast. No-one goes to waste. Yet another character at the time presumed to be just required to forward the plot returns here, albeit in new guise, and the joy is that we are told who they are, but it’ll nag Chu for a while yet. And Poyo the fighting chicken is back as well, complete with false origin.
Flambé is a series of individual chapters with a connecting thread, as ever taking Chu and his partner John Colby to some very strange places, not least Area 51, in the company of his NASA agent sister who’s also a uniquely talented individual.
We’re in safe hands, and up next is Major League Chew, and this book can also be found combined in hardcover with Just Desserts as the second Omnivore Edition.