Book Review: Chew (Volume Twelve) “Sour Grapes” by John Layman and Rob Guillory

TL;DR – To prevent the end of the world, Tony Chu has to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Summary (warning: spoilers)

Go to my book reviews page to see what has happened in previous volumes of this award winning graphic novel series.

By committing suicide, Mason Savoy forces Tony’s hand and results in him having to cannibalise Savoy in order to uncover the truth behind the alien fire writing and the avian flu that previously killed millions and resulted in the prohibition of chicken.

Using his cibopath powers and slowly, painfully acquiring all of Savoy’s knowledge and experience, Tony learns that the avian flu was triggered by Senator David Hamantaschen who hired the specialist services of three food-powered individuals to “broadcast” a contagion that would target any individual who consumed chicken. The reason for the Senator unleashing the mass murder of millions was in response to the fire writing in the sky. Hamantaschen deciphered the writing was from a highly advanced, alien race of chickens that have the technology to destroy planets. The writing is a warning that the denizens of a planet must stop eating chicken lest it be blown into oblivion.

Unfortunately, Hamantaschen deciphered the timing of when the chicken aliens would arrive to pass judgement incorrectly and unleashed the contagion early. The chicken aliens would not arrive for many more years, which thus follows the events in the volumes of Chew.

Now, with the end of the world just around the corner, Tony realises that the only way to survive judgement that doesn’t result in the obliteration of Earth is for all people who are eating chicken to die. However, the price that Tony has to pay to save Earth is not one he is willing to pay.


The finale of Chew created from the marvellously deranged mind of John Layman and the stunning art of Rob Guillory left me speechless. In many ways, the previous volumes provided enough insight and shocking twists to try and prepare me for what would be unleashed in this final volume.

My attempts failed. I was utterly unprepared for the brutality and emotional knives that would slice me up into bite sized pieces to be cooked and stewed for days to come.

In volume eleven, I wrote about how Mason Savoy and Tony Chu had conflicting philosophies. Savoy was willing to sacrifice the few in order to save the many, but Tony did not hold to this principle. For Tony, he could not tolerate the lengths that Savoy would pursue in order to uncover the truth.

But with the knowledge that only Savoy knew how to save Earth, Tony had no choice but to take large literal chunks out of Mason and absorb his power and knowledge using his cibopath abilities.

This is when everything goes sideways.

Tony learns that the dire prophecies from The Church of the Immaculate Ova are actually true and that they’re not some simple mad cult of vegans. Their dire warnings to the world to stop eating chicken hold truth. And that truth is that an alien race of technologically superior chickens are coming to judge Earth and will wipe out the planet unless humanity stops consuming chicken.

But that’s not the worst of it.

The worst of it is a now dead Mason Savoy in psychic ghost form whispers into Tony’s ear that the only way to stop Earth’s obliteration is for Tony to eat Amelia (his wife).

Amelia, like Tony, has her own food-related power. And this power has evolved over time as she has been consuming the alien fruit (that tastes like chicken) known as Gallsaberry.

Tony has all the ingredients to do another “broadcast” that will target and wipe out all people who consume chicken just as Senator Hamantaschen unleashed years ago. This would coincide with the arrival of the alien super chickens who would see that humanity have stopped eating chickens and would pardon the rest of Earth from destruction.

However, one crucial ingredient that Tony is missing is Amelia’s power to evoke a reaction from people who read her writing.

When we first met Amelia, she was a journalist and food critic and had the ability to describe a dish with such accuracy that anyone who read the article would taste the dish. Through consumption of the Gallsaberry fruit, Amelia’s powers have slowly evolved to the point where she is close to being able to write fiction stories and evoke reactions from people including lethal food poisoning.

But Tony refuses to sacrifice Amelia to save the world.

When the alien fire writing appears in the sky once more, they both know it’s the last day before the end of the world. Tony wants to spend the day with Amelia, treasuring what time they have left. Tony wants it to be a romantic day, but instead they end up helping Tony’s older sister, Rosemary, who has her car stolen.

There is one particularly beautiful sequence where at the end, the pair are sitting on a bench, and Amelia says:

“That’s one of the reasons I fell in love with you. Because you do the right thing. You help people. You make things right. Even when you pay a price. Even when it’s awful for you.”

And though they go home together, make love, and Tony falls asleep, Amelia takes matters in her own hands. She heads to her computer and starts writing a story, tapping into her power even though she is not ready for it and in the process dies.

When Tony awakens, he sees in horror what she has done. The story she has written has a coded message that will attack anybody with chicken in their system. All Tony has to do is broadcast it using his existing powers.

John Colby (Tony’s FDA partner and long time friend) arrives and together they go on one last case to hunt down a bad guy. They succeed in stopping the bad guy, and John convinces Tony that he has to read Amelia’s story and save the Earth even if it means committing mass murder on a global scale.

But little does Tony know, John has recently been eating chicken also and while Tony ends up saving the world by broadcasting Amelia’s story, he unintentionally ends up killing John.

Thus, does Tony lose arguably all the most important people in his life. Amelia his wife, John his partner, and previously Toni his twin sister who was killed by The Vampire.

And in the end, Mason Savoy succeeded in forcing Tony to go against his principle. It’s gut wrenching.

In the final chapter of this final volume, the timeline fast forwards to when Tony is now an old man. He has been invited to the “Landing Ceremony” where the alien chickens will arrive to meet with Earth’s humans for the first time to negotiate peace.

In a final act of defiance, an act of revenge, Tony moves through the crowd of onlookers to the stage where the spaceship lands and the alien chickens disembark. He pulls out a knife and lunges at the alien leader and plunges it into his chest.

Thus, the story of Chew ends.

To the bitter end, Tony could not let go of his anger. The perceived injustice that he had to sacrifice all those he loved (as well as the murder of millions of lives) to save a planet held hostage by an alien species that acted as judge, jury and executioner was too much for him. So, he bided his time and sought revenge (or justice depending on your point view) in the only way he could, by killing the alien responsible for making him kill so many.

Truly, unreservedly, epic.

5 out of 5.

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