Book Review: Chew (Volume Six) “Space Cakes” by John Layman and Rob Guillory

TL;DR – With Tony Chu out of action, the story turns to his twin sister, NASA special agent Toni Chu. Her story is one to die for.

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 Six revolves around Toni Chu, a Cibovoyant and NASA agent who has the power to see certain bits of the future by taking bites out of living people.

Her story involves being roped in by her chef old brother, Chow Chu, to investigate Barnabas Cremini, a collector of food art where the depictions are so real that if you lick the painting, you can taste the food; hunting down D-Bear who has stolen psychedelic chogs (genetically engineered combination of psychedelic frogs and chicken) and has been serving them in an underground restaurant; her on again off again relationship with her boss Paneer; stopping Professor Angus Hinterwald who has found a way to trigger a gene within beef to cause them to explode at the first sign of decomposition; and uncovering the murder of Judy Heinz-Campbell who had the ability to craft face masks out of food that transforms a person’s appearance.

Volume 6 also has an interlude chapter on Poyo, the killer rooster, whose resurrection from the depths of hell is pretty darn funny.

The final chapter sees Toni preparing to marry Paneer only to conclude in shocking fashion.

Review

John Layman and Rob Guillory know how to turn on the afterburners, propelling you along and engaging your heart in the exuberant and gregarious life of Antonelle “Toni” Chu and then thrusting you skyward without a parachute causing you to crash to the earth in a bloody mess. Your heart will never be the same.

Toni is the fraternal twin of Tony Chu (who we follow in the first five volumes). She is almost the antithesis of Tony. She is happy-go-lucky to Tony being always serious. She is full of life and energy while Tony is often gloomy and down. She enjoys a party while Tony probably prefers reading a book. She has a positive relationship with her family while Tony does not.

It is a fresh contrast and I was gripped in its pages from the get go. Splattered between the various plots that Toni gets involved in, she bumps into Ceasar Valenzano (FDA agent and sometimes partner to Tony Chu) several times. Each time, Ceasar believes Toni looks familiar and flashbacks occur that reveal they have in fact met before on different occasions and settings (once at a party leading to some drunken sex in the janitor’s closet). But Toni flat out denies they know each other every time (even though she does remember and it gives her the giggles). This laissez-faire attitude summarises Toni’s character.

She’s charming, adorable, loves her family, and can kick ass when the moment requires. One could not have a cooler twin.

And then Layman and Guillory decide to rip your heart out. Yes, dear readers, they make you care and then they laugh in your face. The first hint that something is not right comes at the end of chapter 4 where Paneer confesses his love to her, proposes marriage and allows Toni to bite his shoulder to get a glimpse into their future. Her ‘food power’ showing her that Paneer genuinely loves her and so she agrees to marry him. But when they hug, you see her expression (Paneer doesn’t see it because they’re hugging) and it is one of horror. I wanted to ignore this panel in the graphic novel. Almost doing a double take and thinking Guillory has illustrated her incorrectly, why does she look so sad and horrified when just a moment before she was happy to say yes to Paneer?

All is revealed in the final chapter when Toni goes shopping for a wedding dress with Paneer and is kidnapped by the Serbian cibopath known as The Vampire (an enemy of both Tony and Mason Savoy who is seeking to cannibalise and absorb all individuals that have ‘food powers’. Toni has already foreseen this happening and she allows it to happen because she knows it will lead to her brother eventually stopping The Vampire. In horrifying illustrations, Guillory depicts Toni tied to a chair but both her legs and one arm already amputated by The Vampire. The Vampire attempts to feed on her limbs but is unable to absorb her seeing-into-the-future powers (the reasons for this are revealed in flashbacks, and you understand that Toni has been preparing herself to be kidnapped and to thwart The Vampire’s plans). Toni does not give an inch and taunts The Vampire saying she has already seen the future and it is one where Tony will hunt him down to the ends of the earth, beating him to a pulp, before finally killing him. In a rage of frustration, The Vampire breaks Toni’s neck.

In the final panels, we see a flashback of Toni and Ceasar as little children, meeting at a playground. They begin to talk and Toni reveals her powers. Ceasar asks to know his future (not realising that Toni will need to bite him in order to see it). Toni does just that and reveals to him that he will be part of a team of special agents that will save the world. This flashback finally clicks in Ceasar’s memory and he remembers her but this happens after he breaks the news to the Chu family that Toni is dead.

John Layman and Rob Guillory… I hate you.

Yet I must concede that Volume 6 of Chew is story-telling and art at its finest.

5 out of 5.

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