Chew, Vol. 1: Taster's Choice - Rob Guillory, John Layman Originally posted at The BiblioSanctum:

If you have a weak stomach, do not read Chew. It is a foodie's worst nightmare drawn and spelled out in vivid, disgusting detail. It is, plain and simple, gross.

With that warning out of the way, I sit here enjoying my shrimp fried rice while my husband makes yummy hamburgers and I can happily inform you that I love the entire concept of this comic and continue to be impressed with Image Comics for their promotion of such amazing, off the wall creator-owned books.

Chew is a detective story starring Tony Chu, a cibopath. Tony can read psychic impressions from anything he eats (except beets). Such a "gift" could make a solid vegan out of anybody, but Tony's line of work ensures that won't be happening any time soon. The story occurs during a time when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the most powerful authoritative body. Poultry products have been banned due to avian flu epidemic threats, creating a black market for chicken and chicken substitutes. Many radical groups are up in arms against the government and the FDA, serving as a backdrop to Tony's personal adventures that all start when he takes a bite out of a serial killer to track down his victims.

It is black comedy at its finest. Hilariously dark situations are peppered with just the right amount of witty one-liners and commentary, with Guillory skillfully complimenting the words with his images.

The cast of characters is spectacular, each uniquely brought to life by Guillory's art. I love that Tony is the typical new kid on the block when he joins the FDA, but he isn't completely green. He's a good and capable detective with morals and conviction and, despite the personal inconvenience of his ability, he's reasonably willing to do what he has to do - from eating bad sushi to munching on decayed fingers - to catch the bad guy.

What's a lonely guy without a potential love interest? She comes in the form of Amelia Mintz, a food critic with a special gift of her own that makes her perfect for Tony, but that doesn't mean their relationship will be an easy sale. She falls into the Lois Lane category of strong, outspoken women who really don't need (or even notice) the guys who are pining after them.

The different food related powers (link contains spoilers) are like characters themselves and should not be overlooked as mere plot devices.

But let's not forget that this is a detective story. All the characters and interesting abilities are fascinating, but there actually is a story here and I appreciate the way Layman brings in all the extra details, without weighing things down or venturing too far from the unraveling main plot. There is a mystery to solve and in typical detective story fashion, a seemingly inconsequential case grows into a much, much larger conspiracy that leads to a pretty impressive cliffhanger ending to the first arc.

I am sad to learn that Chew will not appear on television as originally planned, but I'm secretly still holding out hope for a special guest appearance on Hannibal.