Book Review: Chew (Volume Three) “Just Desserts” by John Layman & Rob Guillory

TL;DR – Tony Chu is turning the corner and things are finally looking up. Work has become tolerable thanks to his partner returning to duty, and he’s found love in food critic, Amelia Mintz. But when you work for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you always have a target on your back and Tony finds himself in the cross-hairs of many enemies.

Summary

Go to my book reviews page to see what has happened in previous volumes of this award winning graphic novel series. Volume Three begins with Tony and Amelia infiltrating an elite diners club where the richest dine on the rarest and most endangered plants and animals. The ensuing bust leading to the full blossoming of their relationship.

Tony then goes on assignment undercover and retrieves the death-dealing rooster known as Poyo back into law enforcement hands. Meanwhile, Mason Savoy (ex-FDA agent, wanted murderer, and the man responsible for ripping off Tony’s right ear in Volume One) has been doing his own investigations into Ray Jack Montero who Savoy discovers knew about the ‘avian-flu’ that wiped out millions of people before it occurred.

Montero’s company is seeking to introduce a new artificial meat that tastes like chicken called fricken. Montero falls on Tony’s radar when he tastes the artificial meat and discovers it is actual meat albeit a genetically modified one (i.e. Montero’s scientists have altered frog DNA to now combine frogs and chickens into one). Tony and his team go in and bust Monetro’s operations, but in doing so unwittingly blows another FDA’s assignment (an agent by the name of Ceasar Valenzano, who has ties with Mason Savoy).

This leads to John Colby, Tony’s partner, encountering Savoy at an estate owned by Montero. Savoy is there in burglar gear rifling through Montero’s confidential files but is caught in the act by Colby resulting in the pair facing off against each other.

Review

Mason Savoy returns after his absence in Volume Two, and we see he still surveys a chess board that Tony Chu is but one of the opposing pieces (as opposed to a main player). Savoy’s motives are not fully revealed, but it is clear he has kept tabs on his former FDA partner and knows Tony is a threat. As with my reviews of Volumes One and Two, Savoy is one of my favourite characters and it’s clear he’s playing for the long game.

Along with Savoy, the connection between Tony and Amelia finally bears fruit, and it’s great to see their relationship evolve.

Colby, after getting a cleaver to the head in Volume One and being transformed into a half-cyborg, gets put through the wringer again when he fights a desperate Savoy.

All the elements that make this series engaging – great storytelling, killer art, distinct characters – returns in Volume Three and the ante is upped.

But what drives this volume to another level are the final chapters where we get a glimpse of Tony’s past and the introduction of Tony’s family.

The past is in the form of former fiance, Min Tso, who was so obsessed with Tony that she severed her own toe to give to him when he proposed to her. Safe to say, the relationship did not last. It’s a flashback that makes me wonder if Min might make an appearance in later volumes.

And then we finally meet the Chu clan at Thanksgiving. There’s Toni Chu (Tony’s fraternal twin sister), Chow Chu (already introduced in Volume 1, the older brother chef), Harold Chu (Tony’s cross-dressing younger brother), Sage Chu (moody younger sister), Bao Chu (mother), Bok Chu (deceased father), Ong Chu (grandfather), Charlie Chu (distant cousin), Rosemary Chu-Shen (older sister), Tang Shen (brother-in-law), Chip Chu-Shen (nephew) and Bree Chu-Shen (niece).

And then there’s Olive Chu… Tony’s daughter. First time we see her and you know immediately that their relationship is strained. Olive doesn’t have much to do with her father, and it seems Tony doesn’t know how to communicate to his daughter.

Prior to Thanksgiving, there’s a brilliant sequence of panels where we see Savoy having dinner and the last course is Tony’s ear (the one he ripped off violently in Volume One). Being a Cibopath like Tony, he starts getting images of all the people in Tony’s life and he eventually hones in one person, which you know he has targeted. Yes, you guessed it, Olive.

The flashback of Min, Savoy’s unsavoury dining experience, and the introduction to Tony’s family brings much expectation for the next volume.

Volume Three ends with a strange phenomenon as the Chu family are interrupted by the sound of a car accident. As they rush outside, they see that the cause of the accident is a series of alien fire writing that has appeared suddenly in the sky. The alien writing didn’t register until I went back to Volume One and realised they showed hints of this already. An alien planet named Altilis-738, the focus of the Gardner-Kvashennaya international telescope based in the arctic (and where Tony and Savoy ventures to as part of their investigation), receives the same fire writing in the sky before the alien planet is obliterated.

It’s clear things are about to get weird.

5 out of 5.

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