In “Chew” #34 by John Layman and Rob Guillory, in which Tony Chu tracks down his nemesis The Collector, and the two meet in their first face-to-face since the game-changing tragedy of “Chew” #30. In the meantime, Savoy and Colby work together to corner Senator David Eccles, a “food weirdo” with a hilarious and visually bizarre power, even by Chew-verse standards.
Ever since “Chew” #30, the title no longer fits as neatly into the category of “humor comic.” It’s still full of jokes and craziness, but after the death of a major character, Layman and Guillory have taken on the new challenge of balancing the verbal jokes, visual gags and the usual hyperactive atmosphere of “Chew” with a new gravity and for lack of a better word, realism. “Chew” #34, Chapter Four of the “Bad Apples” storyline, is the most harmonious blend yet of the old funny-times with the new, less cartoony world order. Layman’s plotting shifts easily back and forth, beginning with the overarching revenge plot of Tony and The Collector, but counterbalancing it with the lighter, more ridiculous work-related shenanigans of Colby and Savoy.
After a brief but effective lead-in showing Tony’s present-day parachute drop into The Collector’s residence, Layman winds the clock back half a millennium, one of The Collector’s oldest, valuable “collections.” In a superb 12-panel page by Guillory, Layman also reveals details about eight more collections. These pages show off Layman and Guillory’s imagination and ingenuity, verbal and visual, and it also raises the stakes for Tony, both directly and indirectly. Layman expands the readers’ knowledge of only a fraction of The Collector’s powers, as The Collector himself attempts first to intimidate Tony and then offers a deal.
The other plot featuring Savoy and Colby is more linear in its timeline and is completely unconnected to Tony’s adventure in Europe, but Layman finds the right phrases that enable smooth panel transitions between two continents. This half of “Chew” #34 is also more episodic in nature, but open-ended, so readers may be treated to more scenes with Senator Eccles in the future.
Guillory handles the bloodier, darker scenes of “Chew” #34 just fine, despite his seemingly cartoony and over-the-top style, but he still shines even more brightly in the manic scenes with Eccles. The facial expressions and background details for the scenes of chicken-related political downfall are visual comic gold. Guillory and Wells’ use of color is skillful too, splashing The Collector’s home in grim blue-gray monotone with accents of yellow red to emphasize candlelight and blood. By contrast, Savoy and Colby get a rainbow of punchier colors.
It’s been a great ride so far to see how “Chew” has evolved to be larger in scope and pathos than I could have imagined, not content to rest on its considerable humor laurels. “Chew” #34 is another winning entree by Layman and Guillory, delectably maintaining the tension of the revenge plot while adding even more richness to the Chew-verse.