By: John Layman (writer/letterer) & Rob Guillory (art/colors)
The Story: Tony Chu goes on a secret mission with the Navy.
Review (with minor SPOILERS): This issue highlights two things that I love about Chew. One thing is how unflinching Layman and Guillory are in their approach to humor. These guys take chances and push the envelope into edgy areas. But the other thing they excel at is never seeming to push the joke too far. That balance is really hard, especially when you consider that much of the humor of Chew is coming at the expense of people’s racial or sexual identity. You’re playing with fire in those areas because a lot of people will snicker along with you one minute and then call you a racist/homophobic the next.
As far as I can tell, I’ve never seen Layman and Guillory cross the line into poor taste! It’s an amazing highwire act that they pull off every month and I love them for it.
This month the action centers on Tony Chu going on a secret mission to capture a terrorist with some egg-worshiping sect. The sect is on some remote island and Tony has to hitch a ride with the navy. Of course, this isn’t the navy we’d see in a Michael Bay summer blockbuster, this navy is crewed by the guys from The Blue Oyster in the Police Academy movies. You can almost hear the creators humming along to the Village People’s “In the Navy” as you read the comics. Naturally, they don’t stop the joke with the mere appearance of the crew: taut biceps, lots of mustaches, exposed abs, etc. but the joke continues to the name of the submarine (The Sea Bear) and a poster on the wall that says, “Navy Rules: Keep your seals wet! Thanks.” I’m not sure what “keeping your seals wet” means, but its the kinda thing that shows how expertly these creators walk the line. “Keep your seals wet” sounds vaguely dirty, but you can’t quite nail it down enough to get offended. I’m sure we can all think of other things the sign could say that would take the joke too far and begin to offend people.
As someone who appreciates this type of humor – but has been personally known to push jokes too far – I really appreciate then nuance demonstrated by Layman and Guillory.
In the food-based powers department, this month we meet someone new. This dude becomes stronger when he eats and works as a bodyguard. That’s kinda clever, but what is more nifty is how Tony Chu takes him down by making him vomit (and thereby lose his super-strength). Haha….
As for the “bigger story”, I fully admit that I lost the plot thread in Chew ages ago. I don’t care. I love the comic. Each month gives just enough introduction to understand what is going on and that’s fine with me. This comic isn’t about the story anyway. The story is just a vehicle for the jokes.
It’s a shame to only mention the art at the end, because the art is fundamental to the comic. I really can’t imagine anyone but Rob Guillory bringing such comedic genius to Chew. He’s the one who pulls off a look for a bunch of navy sailors that screams “Village People” (whom everyone laughs at) but doesn’t stray into garden-variety homophobia. That’s a really nuanced line to walk and not only goes Guillory do it successfully, he’s confident enough in his abilities that he KNOWS he can do it. I love the art in Chew. Even beyond the basic sight gags, you won’t find many comics that are its equal when it comes to body language and character acting.
Conclusion: An issue that perfectly illustrates why I love Chew so much. These guys know right where the line between funny and offensive exists. They are unflinching in their approach to the line, but they never cross it.
– Dean Stell