“Chew” #37 by John Layman and Rob Guillory is Part 2 of the “Family Recipes” storyline, and true to the title, the story is family-centric, featuring appearances by Olive Chu, Chow Chu, a cameo flashback of Tony’s deceased sweetheart Min, and delightfully and unexpectedly, a guest appearance by Toni Chu, Tony’s recently deceased twin sister.
Layman picks up the story from the discovery Toni’s toe, and the plot developments from there do not disappoint in laughs and character interactions. It’s not entirely Chu family shenanigans, however. The first two pages and last two pages show Colby’s visit to Savoy in the FDA Supermax prison. At first, this encounter seems to be just for comic relief, but Layman nudges the overarching plot forward with a plot twist on the final page. With this one exception, though, there isn’t much forward action. Even so, it hardly matters, because Toni’s temporary return results in a detour that is so sweet and funny and it is amply worth the reader’s time.
Cameos by dead characters are a plot device that can easily slip into maudlin sentimentality, but both Layman and Guillory continue to prove that they can handle the heavy emotions as well as the food puns with aplomb. Both Toni’s presence and the flashback to Tony’s high school days are funny, but the joy and affection in them (and the grotesque humor of all the toe-eating) only adds to the pathos of the grief Tony now carries. The one-two punch of Min’s toe and Toni’s toe reinforces an earlier funeral scene in reminding the audience that this is not Tony’s first major struggle with the loss of a loved one.
The credits page reprints a few panels from an earlier Chu family adventure as a teaser, with Chow declaring to Toni, “You know, I’m positive this would have worked out differently had I teamed with Tony.” In “Chew” #37, it’s a favor request from brother Chow Chu that diverts the action into more shallow waters, but only for a minor opponent, a certain Ken Keebler, and an entertaining new entry in the “Chew” lexicon of food powers: eroscibopictaros.
The emotional transitions from glee to melancholy memory are smooth, and the humor remains true to the atmosphere and style of “Chew,” which is distinctive and hyperactive, even odd, but also consistently funny and daring. Layman and Guillory make jokes about capital punishment and pornography in “Chew” #37, but their lighthearted tone is irreverent and charming, neatly avoiding the pitfalls of being offensive or self-consciously provocative.
Guillory’s art still impresses with its range of emotional expression. Tony and Chow awkwardly hug near the end of “Chew” #37, and Guillory’s comic timing and grasp of gesture and exaggerated body language make the moment priceless. As usual, the art in “Chew” #37 is worth close examination or re-reading to spot all of Guillory’s background jokes, including a prison sign prohibiting copies of “The Shawshank Redemption” and Tony’s high-school vanity license plate.
“Chew” #37 is another strong issue from Layman and Guillory, which is only more impressive for it being mid-story-arc and several years in. Their storytelling has increased in complexity while always being enjoyable, balancing with light-hearted absurdity with drama.