Chew: Space Cakes by John Layman – A Book Review

I’ve been a huge fan of Chew since I ran across it in the public library soon after the first volume’s release.  An intelligent, action-packed, wickedly funny epic, Chew is the story of Tony Chu, a cop who can basically see the past of anything he eats – and I do mean anything.  By this sixth volume, Space Cakes, the cast of Chew has grown and evolved to the point that its main character, Tony, is actually comatose for most of the story while everyone else carries on, and that makes it no less enjoyable whatsoever.  In fact, Layman and Guillory have inserted a spark of life into each and every character, no matter how ridiculous, and made them leap off the page to the point that the reader is cheering for every flawed hero and booing every nefarious villain.  For example, Poyo, the blood-lustful cybernetic rooster, has a few solo adventures of his own in this work, even taking on the ultimate evil, and if that sounds crazy to you, it is.  But, that craziness is what makes Chew so much fun to read.  You never know what’s going to happen, and you know that there is no limit to what can occur.

The other part of the book features Toni Chew, Tony’s sister.  Toni is a NASA agent and has slowly been introduced during the duration of the series, and now that she takes center stage, we learn that she has a taste-related power of her own.  Much like Morpheus’s sister Death, Toni steals the show and her perky personality quickly wins over our hearts.

While Chew has always had its violent moments, they were always done with a touch of humor and silliness.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not belittling it – this is an expertly written series.  In fact, I’m consistently amazed by how Layman connects and interweaves seemingly unrelated plots.  But, in this volume, things get very serious, and for the first time, I realized just how much these characters have come to mean to me.  I won’t spoil anything for you, but the book ends on a note that completely caught me off guard and left me reeling.

Absolutely imaginative with tight, intricate plots, Chew is a must read.  And while I hope it doesn’t become too serious, the last moment of tragedy is well-placed by Layman and a huge plot point to progress the series.  Is this book hilarious, insane, and always surprising?  Yes.  And it’s also one of the best books going.  Chew is required reading, and Space Cakes only reinforces this fact.

My New Addictions

I’m a comic book guy.  Have been all my life.  Yes, my tastes have changed as I’ve gotten (much) older, but I still love the medium, the craft, and the sheer artistry involved.  When words and pictures come together to sequentially deliver a story – it’s stunning.

The problem is, I’m a little picky about what I buy.  Yes, I’ll pick up just about anything from the library, but, as would be expected, I’m a bit at the library’s mercy in terms of what’s available and when.

I’m more than willing to pay for those titles I truly love, but they’ve got to be awfully good to make it to my shelves.  Before my daughter was born, when my wife and I were DINKS (double-income, no kids), I’d buy a title on a lark.  Those days are over, though.  I’ve gotten much tighter with our money.

Consequently, for several years, I was elated with the titles I bought on a regular basis.  They were Y: The Last Man, 100 Bullets, Ex Machina, Promethea, and Sandman.  Unfortunately, those titles have all come to an end.  Before long, I was left with only DMZ and Fables.  Both excellent titles, but for a comic book addict like me, their trades did not come out often enough to keep me satisfied.

I took a few chances here and there.  The Unwritten utterly disappointed me, Greek Street didn’t hold my interest, and The Losers just wasn’t my thing.  Even Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century turned me off.

Oh, yes, I ran across several amazing graphic novels like Daytripper, Asterios Polyp, Blankets, Pride of Baghdad, and Mother, Come Home, but they were all one shots – not something I could collect month after month.

And then, after much searching, I finally came across three new titles (to me) for which I’m ready to commit both my time and my wallet.

The first is called American Vampire.  It’s a Vertigo title that features Skinner Sweet and Pearl.  Skinner is America’s first vampire, a breed apart from any others.  Though he is turned into a vampire in the 1800s, it’s in the 1920s that he creates another vampire from his blood, a young woman named Pearl.  What I love about the series is that its vampires are truly frightening, and that because these characters are immortal, their stories tend to jump around in time quite a bit.  Pearl and Skinner sometimes cross paths, and at other times are living out their own adventures.  Skinner seems to be a truly evil character, whereas Pearl fights against the darkness within her.  I’m not really a vampire guy, but this series quickly won me over after the first volume.  Smartly written by Scott Snyder with plenty of plot (and gore), it’s definitely worth following.

The second title is called Locke & Key.  It follows the story of the Lockes, three siblings (high school aged and younger) and their mother.  They move to the Locke family mansion after their father is murdered.  This is the house their father grew up in, and it is full of mystery, horror, and paranormal keys that impart special abilities, as they soon discover.  The artwork is beautiful, and the author, Joe Hill, layers plot upon plot, thus making each volume a rewarding read.  These are likable characters with a fascinating premise, and so I can’t wait to see this one through to the end.  Be warned, though, even though the artwork has a cartoonish flair to it, it gets pretty violent at times.  Definitely not for the faint of heart.

Finally, I’m collecting a title called Chew.  By far the strangest of my three new titles, this one is also the most enjoyable.  It is the story of Tony Chew, a detective who is largely successful because of a special ability he has.  Tony receives a psychic impression of anything he eats (except for beets, which is why he mostly only eats beets).  He relives anything’s last moments that he eats, which can prove pretty useful—and disgusting—when investigating a murder.  But this is not a one-note story.  I was amazed by all the interesting storylines that John Layman, the author, introduces, and can’t wait to see where he’s going.  Though there’s plenty of action, Chew is actually very funny and unlike anything I’ve ever read.  I love the offbeat, “anything is possible” vibe that it carries.

So there you have it.  After months and months of (literally) checking out differing titles these are the three (along with Fables and DMZ) that I’ve settled on.  I hope you’ll give them a look and enjoy them, too!