TL;DR – In the aftermath of fiery alien writing appearing in the sky, the prohibition on poultry no longer seems a priority, but Tony Chu still has a job to do.
Summary (warning: spoilers)
Go to my book reviews page to see what has happened in previous volumes of this award winning graphic novel series. Volume Four begins with a flashback of a thriving chicken fast food industry and then the events of an avian flu that wiped out millions and resulted in the subsequent prohibition on cooking/dining/eating poultry.
Moving to present day and the appearance of fiery alien writing encircling the globe, and the population is no longer concerned with a poultry prohibition. Instead, everyone is focused on what the writing means. Is it first contact with an alien species? Is it an act of God indicating the end is nigh? Or something else entirely? The general agreement is that whatever the writing means, it isn’t good.
FDA Agent Tony Chu is still doing his job, investigating crimes related to food, but with government funds all now being poured into NASA to try and figure out the alien writing, enforcement of the poultry prohibition is taking a back seat.
Chew Flambe begins to reveal more of Tony’s family, and building upon the introduction of the Chu household seen at the end of Volume Three (Chew Just Desserts). Specifically, Olive Chu (Tony’s estranged daugther) and Toni Chu (NASA special agent and Tony’s twin sister). The mystery of the alien writing is now at the forefront of this story arc and triggers many to react in different ways.
Chapter 1 has Tony hunting down an FDA agent that has gone AWOL by the name of Daniel Migdalo, who is a Voresophic (an individual with the power to look at pictures and give detailed historical profiles of the individuals in the pictures. He also needs to consume large amounts of food to fuel this cognitive/psychic power). Since the appearance of the alien writing, Daniel has gone off grid. When Tony finds him, he’s become ridiculously obese and has gone mad, continually spouting mathematical formulas, which one would have to think is reaction to seeing the alien writing. Whatever Daniel is trying to say is never understood as he attacks Tony only to lunge at a pack of mints which Tony throws out the apartment window. This results in Daniel going splat on the street below and killing himself.
Chapter 2 focuses on a nerd student (who has experienced constant bullying) at a school that Olive also attends. Said nerd has concocted some sort of drug that he puts in food and makes the person who consumes it do what he says. This results in the nerd getting revenge on the students who bullied him by inciting a food fight that ends in a blood bath of thrown cleavers, stabbing of forks and knives, and smashing of metal chairs over heads. Tony comes in to apprehend the nerd from blowing up the school.
Chapter 3 sees Tony and his partner, John Colby, joining a suicide mission to stop a mad General who has developed a bio-weapon that mimics what the avian flu did three decades ago. The reintroduction of the killer rooster Poyo is both hilarious and alarming.
Chapter 4 has Tony working with his twin sister, Toni, as they investigate Area 51 and bust a scientist making bullets from the metals of meteors. And the final Chapter involves Tony and John going undercover to get information on a cult that worships eggs and foretold the alien writing would come.
Throw in Mason Savoy who kidnaps Olive and a chunk of the earth disappearing (yes, literally going poof) and you can see there’s plenty to read in Chew Flambe. Lots go on and nothing is revealed as to the mystery of the alien writing that pervades in the sky. It’s a collection of stories of how people have reacted to it and how the world is devolving. The cliff hanger ending has ensured I will continue reading on in this excellent and weird series.
What has Savoy got in store for Olive? What is the explanation behind the alien writing? The various individuals that have powers connected to food still appears to all tie into this underlying mystery. Bring on the next volume!
4 out of 5.