Book Review: Chew (Volume Nine) “Chicken Tenders” by John Layman and Rob Guillory

TL;DR – Against Tony’s warnings, Colby and Savoy convince Applebee and the FDA to try and take down The Vampire. Things are about to hit the fan, and it’s going to be bloody.

Summary (warning: spoilers)

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

With the knowledge of future events imparted by his deceased twin sister, Tony now knows the actions that he needs to take in order to bring The Vampire (aka The Collector) to justice. Until such time, he is seeking to embrace his life a little more and finally ties the knot with his girlfriend, Ameila, with a gunshot wedding in Las Vegas.

Tony’s partner, John Colby, who has been in an on-again, off-again relationship with their boss, Mike Applebee (Director of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)) also ends up tying the knot after a drunken night of drinking too much vodka. This devastates John’s prior boss, Holly Penya, who he also had an on-again off-again relationship and runs the USDA (U.S Department of Agriculture).

Last but not least, we dive into the many missions of our returning killer rooster, Poyo, as he faces off against an assortment of food-related monstrosities and even travels to another dimension to save a different world from killer vegetables. Poyo is the terminator with feathers. He saves the world and protects those who cannot protect themselves. Nothing can stop him. At least, that’s what we think.

Review

Volume nine sees Tony accomplish a number of missions using his cibopath powers. After his gunshot wedding, he is called back to the job and successfully retrieves a prototype blaster that shoots hot fudge that freezes people in place when it hardens. The theft appears to have been done by the religious cult, The Church of the Immaculate Ova, but Tony’s food-related power identifies that the individual behind the scenes is actually The Vampire looking to make it appear that the cultists are responsible. Tony successfully foils The Vampire’s attempts to acquire the knowledge and skills of the scientist responsible for designing the hot fudge blaster.

Tony is then sent on a mission to an underwater sea station near the island of Yamapalu where it has been discovered that the strange chicken-tasting fruit known as Gallsaberry is growing on the ocean seabed. He is there to identify the murderer of an agent known as Sammi (an intelligent seal that worked for the USDA special operations division). Thoughts are that an E.G.G. terrorist spy may be responsible, but it turns out to be a scientist who acquired a food-related power that allows him to grow his brain by eating fish, and he took exception to Sammi eating his fish.

Everything seems to be going well for Tony, but unknown to him is that Savoy, Ceasar, Colby and Olive convince Applebee to bring in FDA resources and work with them to bring down The Vampire. A couple of things to point out from previous volumes:

  1. Tony is unaware that his partner Colby is working with Savoy, who Tony considers a criminal and murderer. While Savoy has committed a number of atrocities, he is looking to uncover the truth behind the avian flu and subsequent prohibition of chicken by the government.
  2. Tony is also unaware that Savoy has recruited his estranged daughter Olive, who not only inherited cibopath powers from her father but is much more powerful. In working with Savoy, she has absorbed powers from other individuals with food-related powers and is looking to take The Vampire down for murdering her aunt, Toni.

With the FDA on board, they locate The Vampire’s current location and touchdown at one of the mansions where The Vampire resides. Colby attempted to bring Tony also, but Tony declined saying that it is not the right time and explaining his interactions with his deceased sister, which was shown in the previous volume (Family Recipes). Tony tells Colby that the team should withdraw, but Applebee convinces Colby to proceed with the mission explaining they not only have the element of surprise and the forces of the FDA behind them but also back-up assistance from the USDA who will bring in Poyo if all else fails.

However, everything goes sideways and then down the tube as forewarned by Tony. The Vampire demonstrates fighting skills collected from all manner of food-powered individuals and inflicts massive casualties on the entire team; Applebee gets gutted in half by a pizza cutter, Savoy becomes a pin cushion of chopsticks, Colby gets stabbed in his robotic eye, Ceasar has his hand dismembered by a butter knife and Olive gets sliced across her eyes.

When the USDA are called in, they cargo drop backup and we’re all expecting it to be Poyo. Instead it’s a squirrel named Babycakes with a cybernetic eye and the poor thing gets shot to pieces. Holly Penya is a woman scorned and has not forgiven Colby for dumping her, so her help ends up being a betrayal.

With everything going south, I half expected this massacre at the hands of The Vampire to be some sort of dream sequence, but with some clever writing from John Layman, the team is rescued by Paneer Sharma (Director of NASA). Paneer was briefly married to Toni Chu and loved her deeply. Toni made Paneer promise that he would look out for her brother (but she didn’t specify which one as Toni has several brothers). We then get to see events leading up to the FDA’s failed attack on The Vampire as Paneer tries to stay in touch with all the Chu brothers without much success. Almost a forgotten character, when Paneer receives satellite imagery of the FDA team entering The Vampire’s compound. He then sends his NASA forces involving “Star Wars” level technology to stop The Vampire from killing everyone and rescuing Colby and company.

The tragedy of the failed attack leads to the entire team in critical condition in hospital. Tony confronts Colby and the pair get into a fist fight because Tony now knows all the secrets Colby has been keeping from him. Tony essentially throws away their decades long friendship and not giving Colby the chance to explain..

Dejected and depressed, Colby ends up at a bar with Poyo and unloading all his woes onto the rooster. And then a rather shocking thing happens on the final page of this volume.

Poyo, the terminator with feathers, the protector of Earth and other worlds in other dimensions, suddenly has his neck broken at the hands of Colby. It’s a shocking end to an action packed volume. Plenty of questions now pop in my head.

Is that really Poyo? Because in this volume, we see that Poyo has plenty of doubles (roosters who are made to look like him to present to the people).

If it really is Poyo, why did Colby kill him? Is it because Colby wants to get back at Holly Penya for failing to back-up the FDA mission on The Vampire? Or is there some other reason?

New questions in an ever evolving and wonderfully complex story. One of Chew‘s greatest strengths is that characters you assume are on the periphery end up playing a key role. At its core, there are three mysteries that we keep coming back to: 1) what are the origins of the avian flu and what is the truth behind the government’s subsequent chicken prohibition? 2) what is the alien fiery writing in the sky (we saw in previous volumes) and the alien Gallsaberry fruit? and 3) how did people start obtaining food-related powers?

Combining all these colourful characters and intricate plot with Guillory’s brilliant art and you’ll throw yourself willingly into the world of Chew.

4.5 out of 5.

Book Review: Chew (Volume Eight) “Family Recipes” by John Layman and Rob Guillory

TL;DR – Pieces start coming together as Tony Chu gets a little help from his deceased twin sister, Toni.

Summary (warning: spoilers)

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

Flashbacks prior to Toni’s death are revealed as she puts in motion a plan to help her brother solve the mystery surrounding the flaming script in the sky, the avian flu, and stopping The Vampire.

Along the way, we see Mason Savoy is hatching his own plan with the help of John Colby by infiltrating a maximum security prison that holds criminals with food-related power. Mason successfully gets his hands on Jack Montero, a man who sought to profit from the avian flu outbreak and the eventual prohibition on eating chicken. Savoy knows that somehow Montero knew the pandemic would occur before it did, and he wants to know how and why. Savoy (like Tony Chu is a cibopath) takes a literal bite out of Jack and receives the information he needs.

Meanwhile, Toni’s machinations to assist Tony after her murder involve her severed toe, a gallsaberry fruit (alien fruit that tastes like chicken), chogs (genetically combined frogs and chicken), and the help of Amelia and Olive. Tony goes on a very psychedelic trip indeed.

Review

I took a break from this series after Volume Seven felt somewhat flat. In a sense, this was expected after Volume Six shook me to the core with the brutal murder of Tony’s fraternal twin sister, Toni. She was a shining light and valuable counterpoint to Tony’s dead serious character. With her death, Tony dived deeper into the darkness and commenced a mission of revenge to find and kill Toni’s murderer, The Vampire.

So, you can imagine my surprise when Volume Eight opens with the story focused squarely on Toni Chu and the events that occurred in the months leading up to her grisly death. As we know from previous volumes, everyone in the Chu family has a food-related power. For Toni, she is able to glimpse future events when she takes a bite out of any living thing. And she foresaw her own death and thus prepared to leave key items to help her brother, Tony, bring The Vampire to justice.

At the end of Volume Seven, we see that one of those items was Toni’s toe. In Volume Eight, we see through flashback that she cut off her own toe knowing she would leave it in Tony’s freezer to find.

We also get to see, for the first time, Sage Chu. Sage is the younger sister of Tony and Toni. Sage is a cipropanthropatic, which is a food-power that allows her to access the memories of anyone close to her who is eating the same thing as she is. Sage often orders weird dishes to avoid her food-power from activating. Unfortunately, even with her best efforts, she ends up eating the same dish as a Mr. Biscotti. The memories she receives from Mr. Biscotti are violent and gruesome as he turns out to be a mobster and killer.

Sage enlists the help of Toni to arrest Mr. Biscotti and successfully does so. Toni also ends up taking a bite out of Sage (I assume because Toni knows she will die soon and wants to see how things will turn out for her younger sister). We don’t get to see what Toni sees, but she says to Sage that her life will be happy and she’s proud of her.

Events then come back to the present, where Tony, his girlfriend, Amelia, and his estranged daughter, Olive have discovered Toni’s present in the freezer. Tony sits down, stares at the dismembered toe, and takes a small bite. Tony’s food-related power allows him to see the origins of the things that he eats. So, when he nibbles on Toni’s toe, he is confronted by an image of Toni that is best described as a combination of a pre-recording mixed with her being in spiritual ghost-form. Toni explains to Tony why she left her toe and how she will help him stop The Vampire.

Toni also leaves a recipe for Amelia for a dish that combines the mysterious gallsaberry fruit with the psychedelic chogs. With the help of Olive, who Amelia convinces to impersonate as an FDA agent by borrowing Tony’s badge, they talk their way into the research lab at the FDA and secure some chogs. They then cook it all up and feed it to Tony, who then goes on a drug-induced out-of-body psychedelic trip to an alien planet (Altilis-738) where he meets with his ghost sister.

She describes to him the phenomenon of the flaming script that appeared in the sky circling Altilis-738 and how subsequently the planet was destroyed. This is the same flaming script that had appeared around Earth in previous volumes.

Toni then goes on to whisper in his ear how Tony can stop The Vampire (of course, we don’t get to read what she says). Tony’s response is that he can’t do that, but his ghost-sister says he can and he will. She warns him that if he continues down the path he is travelling seeking revenge then he will end up just like The Vampire.

Before she disappears, she asks Tony to give the rest of her severed toe to Olive for consumption. It’s gross and funny at the same time. Olive is also a cibopath like her father but she has far greater control in her food-power. Whatever she learns from ghost-Toni after consuming the toe is not revealed, but she smiles and says, “Cool.”

A jam packed volume that finally progresses a number of story lines while also leaving enough mystery that you’ll want to read on.

Every scene with Toni is a delight. And when she finally disappears into the void after bidding farewell to Tony, it genuinely choked me up. I can only hope that somehow Toni’s spirit will re-emerge in future volumes. The art by Guillory is beautiful and captures all the characters (especially the Chu family) vividly and with distinct traits.

Buckle up and get back on the Chew train!

4.5 out of 5.