Book Review: Chu (Volume One) “First Course” by John Layman and Dan Boultwood

TL;DR – An essential read for those who have read the Chew series.

Summary (warning: spoilers)

From the deranged and brilliant mind of John Layman comes Chu, a prequel to the Eisner award winning series Chew.

Saffron Chu and Tony Chu are siblings. Saffron is a cibopar; a food-power that allows her to read minds and obtain secrets from those she eats with. Tony is a cibopath; a food-power that allows him to obtain psychic impressions of what he eats.

If Saffron eats the same burger in the same room as someone else, she can access their thoughts and secrets.

If Tony eats a burger, he gets images of where the meat came from, how the cow was killed, where the vegetables were grown and how the bread was made. If Tony were to take a bite out of say, a murder victim, then he’ll get images of the killer. The only food that Tony does not get psychic impressions from are beets.

Saffron is a thief and in a relationship with Eddie Molay, fellow thief and expert locksmith. Tony is a detective.

When a job Saffron and Molay undertake goes sideways, Tony is asked to investigate setting the course for brother and sister to collide.

For those in the know (i.e., that have read Chew), this series is set when the onset of the avian flu that wipes out millions around the world starts.

Let the games begin!


This delectable piece of work is to be savoured. Devoured slowly by examining each panel, digesting each beautiful morsel and then re-read for all its grandeur. I promise that’s the end of my culinary metaphors.

If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend you read Chew first. Even though Chu is a prequel, you will appreciate the references more if you have finished the epic body of work that is Chew by Layman and Rob Guillory.

This time Layman has teamed up with artist Dan Boultwood. There is both a familiarity and unique style to Boultwood’s art that I found delightful. I’m a huge fan of Rob Guillory, and his art in Chew is slightly grittier than Boultwood, but that doesn’t mean Chu’s art is any less effective. It’s a refreshing, clean take by Dan who uses angles, close-ups, and bird-eye views to capture all the action, comedy, violence and emotional angst of its characters while staying true to the Chew canon.

As for the Chu story, Layman has concocted a wonderful prequel that connects many dots that lead into Chew. We get to see how Tony Chu and John Colby first meet; John’s hairdo and cowboy moustache is hilarious, and I didn’t realise it was him until he said his name. It was great to see how these two became life long partners in crime fighting.

We also dive into more of Tony’s family and learn about the twins Saffron and Sage Chu, as well as learning the disconcerting history of Ong Chu, their grandfather, who turns out was a total bad-ass.

Saffron must have got her criminal tendencies from her grandpa as she uses her food-power to read other people’s minds as information reconnaissance for jobs. She’s in deep with Eddie and together they get hired to do a job by a guy named “The Boss” to rob from the number one mobster in the city. However, things do not go according to plan when the team they work with starts getting serious food poisoning from eating chicken; their sniper man and strong woman both go down vomiting. This is a reference to the avian flu that will wipe out millions and leads into the Chew story arc.

As a result of the botched job, the mob come targeting Saffron and Eddie and want their pound of flesh (or their heads will work too). The juggling between Saffron performing her criminal hi-jinks with spending time with her family is cleverly done, and all the while, Tony is slowly piecing together what is going on.

For some readers, the climax of the collision between Saffron and Tony will be hard to swallow (okay, that’s the last culinary metaphor I swear). Tony’s actions appear extreme when in the context of the fact that Saffron is his sister. He doesn’t give her much chance to explain her actions but for those who have read Chew, they will know this is exactly what Tony’s character is like. He’s not just a detective but he sees things as black and white, and it is this perspective that ultimately becomes his undoing in both Chu and Chew series.

Though Saffron is arrested and ends up serving time in prison, she continues to use her food powers to absorb all the knowledge of her fellow prison inmates. So when she is released, she is now much more dangerous than before. Much to Tony’s chagrin. Like I said, it’s his undoing.

There’s a second volume to Chu but my library hasn’t got it yet. I might just have to bite the bullet and buy both volumes. Okay, okay, I lied about the “last” culinary metaphors. But can you blame me? John Layman uses it on practically every page.

5 out of 5.

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.

Book Review: Chew (Volume Eleven) “The Last Suppers” by John Layman and Rob Guillory

TL;DR – Tony Chu faces off against Mason Savoy.

Summary (warning: spoilers)

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

The Pope has declared, “Chicken is DOOM!”

The proclamation occurs during Easter to millions of people televised worldwide. Applebee assigns Tony and John to investigate why the Pope has now become an egg worshipper and converted follower of the “Divinity of the Immaculate Ova” church. The Pope has gone on to say that eating chicken is a sin and that anyone eating chicken must die.

The pair are led back to the Pacific Island of Yamapalu where the alien fruit that tastes like chicken, Gallsaberry, grows. There they encounter Mason Savoy who convinces Tony to have a sit down, which turns out to be more precarious than either of them thought as they psychically “time-travel” back to the dinosaur ages (with the help of a food-powered individual) where they discover a species of animal that is half-human, half-chicken. Or at least, they have chicken heads with a humanoid body. Savoy reveals that this species would have become the dominant life form on Earth had they not been wiped out by an errant meteor that wiped out the Mesozoic era.

Meanwhile, Tony’s wife, Amelia has been continuing writing her novel using her food-power that allows her to write about the origins of the food that she eats (her writing so believable that anyone who reads it can taste the food also). She has been taking bites out of her own Gallsaberry and receiving images of an alien detective fighter against a mad tentacled alien eater.

Add to this that NASA have discovered another planet with alien fire writing encircling its skies and things are coming to a head.


How much is a life worth? Would you kill one life to save the lives of billions of others?

For Anthony “Tony” Chu, the answer is every life is equally precious. For Mason Savoy, the answer is the lives of billions outweighs the life of one.

This philosophical conundrum is at the crux of the conflict between Tony and Mason. As two of the three known remaining cibopaths on Earth (the third being Tony’s daughter, Olive), their power to obtain the origins and events of things that they eat combined with their ability to absorb others’ food-related powers (should they decide to cannibalise them) makes them pivotal in unraveling a series of mysteries including:

  • The so-called avian flu pandemic that wiped out millions of people (including Mason’s wife).
  • Subsequent conspiracies around the government’s prohibition on chicken
  • The sudden appearance of alien fire writing encircling the Earth
  • The rise of “The Divinity of the Immaculate Ova” cult that believe that chickens should not be consumed and all chicken eaters should be killed
  • The rise of individuals who have a vast array of food-related powers, some using it to further their own ends, some seeking to serve the greater good.

For Tony and Mason, they initially started out on the same page, but they quickly diverged as Mason was willing to torture anyone who might have information to uncover the truth surrounding the mysteries listed above and would go so far as killing anyone standing in his way.

Of course, Tony stood in his way and thus an indelible chasm has separated the pair. In this volume, Mason makes one final attempt to extend an olive branch. He knows that together, they can get to the truth.

Their last supper involving psychic time travel and the revelation that a specifies of humanoid chicken once existed leads much to be speculated. But not even this can sway Tony to Mason’s side, much to Savoy’s fury.

This gives the impression that Savoy has determined that Tony must now be removed from the equation, which leads to the events in the epilogue of Volume 10, where inexplicably we see Tony holding what appears to be a murdered Amelia in his arms.

What is revealed, however, is that Amelia is actually attacked by E.G.G. terrorists and it is Mason who comes to save her. Further, Amelia, while seriously injured, is not dead. She reveals to Tony that after Mason made quick work of the terrorists, he stole the final chapters of her book and the Gallsaberry fruit that she was eating.

This leads to some brilliant writing by Layman and art by Guillory. Spattered throughout each chapter of this volume, we see Mason doing a monologue. At first, it gave me the impression that Savoy had broken the “fourth wall” and was talking to the me (the reader) directly.

His monologue revolving around why he will do anything to uncover the truth even if the path he goes down causes him to become a monster. However, I realised that he is actually talking to Tony.

I then thought that perhaps this monologue was somehow set in the future, and Mason had successfully captured Tony and is trying to explain his actions before the inevitable “now-I-have-to-kill-you moment” (thanks for listening!)

But I now believe this monologue is a message left for Tony as one of Mason’s memories. Similar to when Tony’s twin sister, Toni, was murdered by The Vampire. She took specific steps to be able to communicate to Tony even after her death.

And in a twist that I did not see coming, we discover on the final page that Mason has hung himself and left one final note for Tony which simply says, “Eat me.”

Absolutely brilliant stuff.

In this penultimate volume, Chew has surpassed my expectations and kept me guessing. I don’t want the ride to be over, and I have a feeling that the final Volume 12 will be bittersweet.

5 out of 5.

Book Review: Chew (Volume Ten) “Blood Puddin'” by John Layman and Rob Guillory

TL;DR – Finally revealed what Tony’s twin sister whispered into his ear in order to give Tony the key to defeating The Vampire.

Summary (warning: spoilers)

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

John Colby’s attempts at reconciliation with his partner, Tony Chu, go bust. Tony still blames John for working with wanted fugitive Mason Savoy and roping in his daughter Olive to try and take down The Vampire. The casualties were high in the last volume, and Tony is holding onto a lot of anger.

Tony ends up working with D-Bear who reveals he has some intelligence beneath that giant Afro as they bust a couple of food-powered baddies. But these are side stories for the main one, which sees Savoy and Olive awaken in hospital and escape to hunt down the location of The Vampire once more. And this time they have Tony’s wife, Amelia, in tow.

It takes OIive’s words to strike home how much Tony has failed her as a father, going so far as to say that Savoy has taught her more and been more of a father than Tony ever has been. This makes Tony realise how important relationships are in his life, and he seeks to be better not only towards Olive but also John.

When it is finally revealed how Tony can defeat The Vampire, Tony and John have been on the same page all along. The key to The Vampire’s defeat is to eat Poyo the rooster; the greatest crime fighting rooster in the history of all roosters (and humankind).

Oh, and Mike Applebee and Caesar Valenzano, who both looked like they were on death’s door after the failed assault on The Vampire, get turned into a robotic centaur and man with a cyborg lobster claw respectively. Great stuff!


Cibopaths are individuals who have the strange power to know the origins of anything they eat. For example, if they eat an apple, they know what tree the apple came from and where it grew. If they eat a steak, they get all the gruesome details of how the cow died in order to become a steak. Further, cibopaths can acquire the strengths and abilities of those things they consume. So, if they go so far as taking enough bites out of a person who has other food-related powers, then the cibopath will acquire that other food-related power also.

There are four known cibopaths: Tony Chu, Mason Savoy, Olive Chu and The Vampire. Of the four, The Vampire is the primary antagonist of the Chew series. He has been hunting down every person with food-related powers, all around the world, to kill and consume them in order to acquire a new power.

The Vampire is responsible for the murder of Tony’s sister, Toni Chu (who had the food-related power to see into the future of those she takes a bite out of). Toni left a piece of her toe for her brother to consume, so she could communicate to him (by him eating her toe) after she gets murdered. In that exchange, she whispered something into Tony’s ear telling him how to defeat The Vampire, but we don’t get to see what she said until this volume.

And now, it all makes sense.

The last volume (Vol Nine) saw the shocking end of Poyo the killer rooster. John Layman has done something very clever. Poyo has been a recurring character since the beginning, and while integral in demonstrating the ongoing ‘food-related theme’ of the series and showing Poyo is the baddest and most deadly of all poultry-related creatures, he was presented as a side character in following volumes. In fact, his appearance was usually in a two-page spread that gave artist, Rob Guillory, the freedom to go crazy showing Poyo fighting against some super food-powered monster. The two-page spread was often a ‘Street Fighter’ style depiction that would look cool on a poster, but it always felt like a strange side-bar in the Chew series.

So, you can imagine my surprise when Poyo had his neck broken, not by a super food-powered monster, but by John Colby. The fact that they are both on the same team, looking to stop The Vampire and solve food-powered murders, allows John to get close enough to Poyo and unexpectedly breaking the poor bird’s neck. The subsequent confusion (and ending of volume nine) was both brilliant and agonising as I had to grab the next volume post haste.

And like I said, it now makes sense. John realises that the only way Tony can stop The Vampire is to acquire all the fighting knowledge, anger, skill and downright bad-ass attitude of Poyo by eating the bird. But, initially, Tony doesn’t want to hear anything John has to say after Colby’s failed incursion on The Vampire’s compound led to Olive badly hurt and in hospital.

After much butting of heads, the pair finally come together and reveal what the other doesn’t realise they already know. Tony reveals his sister told him to eat Poyo, and John reveals his belief that the only way to stop The Vampire is to eat Poyo. The moment is both funny and marvelously well-timed.

Thus, Tony fulfills his destiny and kills The Vampire. The confrontation is action packed and clever as Tony ends up killing The Vampire the same way The Vampire killed Tony’s sister, by breaking his neck. The Vampire believes, however, he has the last laugh as he thinks Tony will take a few bites out of him to acquire all of The Vampire’s collected food-related power. The Vampire conveying mirth at the idea that he will live on in Tony, but to his surprise, Tony says he doesn’t want any of those powers and finishes his arch nemesis off.

But the series is not over. There is still much that is unresolved including the alien fire writing in the sky, the mystery of the avian flu, the origins of the individuals who have acquired food-related powers and the space fruit known as Gallsaberry, which tastes like chicken.

And in the epilogue on the final page of Volume Ten, we inexplicably see Amelia (Tony’s wife) dying (or dead?) in his arms. What? Why? Who? How?

Layman and Guillory are not holding anything back. Riveting stuff from first page to last.

5 out of 5.

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.


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.


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.