John Layman and Rob Guillory’s “Chew: Demon Chicken Poyo” #1 reveals what Poyo has been up to since his death in the “Chicken Tenders” arc. I didn’t think it was possible for Poyo to be become even more outlandish and over-the-top as a heroic figure, but the addition of a Ghost Rider-like flaming head and a new occupation suit the rooster well.
The story opens with Guillory’s on-the-nose parody of cutesy kids’ cartoon imagery and colors, all toothachingly sweet. Layman then zooms out into a parody of “The Exorcist” film, which in turn frames a parody of Dr. Seuss’ “How The Grinch Stole Christmas!” The send-up of “The Exorcist” is spot-on, and Guillory’s drawing of little Lily-Marie Taters looks just like Regan MacNeil from the film, only less scary. Layman gives the possessed little girl food powers, Chewverse-style, and — in a self-referential twist — the book that can exorcise the demon turns out to be “Chew: Demon Chicken Poyo” #1.
Layman and Guillory outdo themselves with the Grinch parody. Layman writes rhymed verse throughout, and Guillory’s big panel of Poyo simultaneously fighting a Godzilla-like “George Washington Kaiju,” Dick Cheney, three Elvis clones and four other foes shows that he can illustrate just about anything.
“Chew: Demon Chicken Poyo” #1 is unusually heavy on text because of its structure as a children’s book parody, but Layman’s lettering is placed well, never cluttering up Guillory’s panels, and his use of color and outlines in the word balloons is judicious and well-executed, clarifying rather than distracting from the story. The lettering even reinforces and amplifies the humor, like the panel in which the father reveals that “Chew: Demon Chicken Poyo” #1 is a “magic comic.”
The sheer range of Layman’s jokes is impressive. The nonsensical repetition in the phrase “demonic demon” and an F-word teasing rhyme are both childish but satisfying. Most impressive, perhaps, is Layman’s allusion to Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil” and Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” in the lines “Santa stared into the abyss / And there would be no returning.” The reference manages to be both apt and ridiculous, and it also foreshadows Santa’s fate on the next page.
Guillory’s humorous skills are equally varied and impressive, ranging from background cracks at Jewel and Michael Bay to purely visual gags, like the sight of Santa Claus in shorts and Crocs. His page and panel compositions have a Kirby-esque level of energy. For example, Lily Marie’s projectile vomiting is a convincing first punch.
It’s easy to overlook Guillory’s coloring skills in all the chaotic shenanigans of the action, but his palette is broad. The lurid candy colors of “Township of Blun” are both appropriate and amusing. The full-page spread for the climax creates tension in the balance between orange and purple, while still retaining depth, detail and the direction of light in the different shades of brown, yellow and green for the vortex’s spiral.
“Chew: Demon Chicken Poyo” #1 has a simplistic moral, meant to mimic and mock the Grinch story. However, the pat ending also reinforces the feeling that — despite its layers of humor and structural complexity — the total impact on the reader is slight and the satirical bite isn’t deep. The humor lacks the insight of truly outstanding parodies. It manages to be very funny, but its cleverness doesn’t go beyond being an extended joke. It’s also skippable in the sense that it has little bearing on the greater “Chew” story arcs. Nevertheless, most readers will still consider it worth picking up for its uninhibited sense of fun and its reassuring “happy” ending for the beloved break-out character Poyo.