In recent years, there’s been an increasing number of comics that have focused on food, and it’s possible that the most well-known is John Layman’s Chew series. It follows the adventures of Tony Chu, an FDA agent capable of learning new skills from the food that he eats. I was blown away by the awesomness of the first volume, so it inspired me to pick up the next collection. Chew: Volume 2: International Flavour sees Chu on the hunt for a new type of food that’s sprouted up on a remote island. The graphic novel contains all the irreverent grossness and dark humour of the previous volume.
The story begins with Chu reuniting with his old partner John Colby, who joined the FDA in exchange for technological surgery. Having taken a butcher knife to the face on duty, Colby blames Chu for his injuries, which sets the two of them at each other’s throats. Chu and Colby’s relationship is built around banter and bravado, with the two of them as likely to punch each other as they are to watch each other’s backs. Colby is a great foil for Chu, coming across as a hardass with a chip on his shoulders, made even bigger by his new upgrades.
Their first case involves a bank robbery and rather than rely on Chu’s cibopath abilities, they use traditional detective work. After solving the case, Chu discovers that a new kind of fruit has grown on the island of Yamapalu. Called a Gallasaberry, the fruit tastes exactly like chicken, which makes it a commodity in a world where all chicken has been banned by the government.
Chu goes to Yamapalu with his celebrity chef brother to investigate. It’s revealed the governor of Yamapalu is holding famous chefs hostage in order to create the world’s finest menu using the gallasberries. The situation is made worse by the arrival of The Vampire, a fellow cibopath determined to acquire as much knowledge as possible by eating other people with powers.
Things come to a head when the locals of Yamapalu revolt against the government, fighting a ‘chicken war’ that sees them burn down their former home. Chu confronts The Vampire, only for his adversary to escape with a chef that communicates solely through food. A silver lining occurs in Chu meeting Amelia Mintz, the woman of his dreams. After rescuing her, she agrees to go on a date with him, rounding off a high-octane story.
Layman does an amazing job of expanding the world of Chew by introducing more food based powers and quirky characters. The Vampire proves to be a formidable enemy, setting up the conflict for future stories. The themes of the graphic novel have modern day relevance, due to the emphasis on government fascism and rebellion.
Rob Guillory’s art is a feast for the eyes, equal parts zany and colourful. Whether he’s drawing a secret agent rat, or a violent prison fight, you’ll be hooked on every panel. Chew: Volume 2: International Flavour is an entertaining graphic novel that will make you look at food in a different way. Buy it now on Amazon.