The “Space Cakes” storyline ends with a bang, as “Chew” refuses to sit still. As Tony Chu slowly regains his strength, his sister, Toni, prepares for her wedding. An issue that starts off with typical hilarity quickly takes a sharp turn to the dark and dramatic. It’s a pivotal issue in the series, with plenty of hints being dropped for what’s to come in the future. You’ll read it once for the roller coaster ride, and then immediately read it a second time in a different light, knowing the impact the issue’s outcome places on the earlier events. Every line of dialogue counts, and this one is a corker.
It’s a simple issue, done in basically three movements, the first of which is a daydream. The second is the middle part of the middle issue of the overall series and serves well to spin things off into a new direction. The third is the resolution of a running gag between Toni and Caesar.
Rob Guillory is Mr. Consistent here. So much of the book’s tone and impact comes from his visuals, with dynamic character expressions (check out Toni’s range of emotions on one page after the daydream ends) and restrained storytelling in the face of such (at times) farcical situations. We see a vision of a wedding that never happens that includes a guest appearance by wedding DJ Jim Mahfood, a naked man dancing on the wedding cake and a Chu Brothers chicken fight. But we also get a flashback later in the issue to the Chu siblings’ childhood, drawn in a slightly more cutesie big-headed “Peanuts”-like style. (In light of the stomach-turning moment in the middle of the issue, it got a big laugh from me. That wild swing worked.) Guillory jumps from situation to situation without losing a step, varying up his color scheme along the way.
In the end, though, it will be Layman’s mastery with timing that will sell this book. He dealt well with all of the ramifications of having a character who can read the future anchor the series for a few issues. He didn’t blindside her with something for plot convenience’s sake. He met it straight on. And, of course, “Chew” so deftly jumps between time frames, going back in time and continuity for a quick page’s gag, but also cramming all of that in to a larger well-planned epic. You feel comfortable reading the series knowing that Layman has it all planned out somewhere. Everything counts.
“Chew” has always been a well-layered book. What at first seemed like a goofy crime comic with an utterly insane premise has turned into an ensemble dramedy piece. And for drama, nothing will beat the middle of the book. It doesn’t shy away from showing you some harshness, but it’s also not gratuitous. It’s a tough scene, but handled well. It’s Layman throwing down the gauntlet to Robert Kirkman for bold series dismemberment. That’s followed up by kids eating ice cream on the playground. You never know where this book will go next.
Layman and Guillory have expanded the core of the book without losing focus. They’re not afraid to turn the series on a dime and branch off in new directions. It has served the book well for 30 issues, and here’s hoping the next 30 are just as impactful and memorable.