When we last saw Poyo, homicidal rooster and fan favorite “Chew” character, he was presumed dead. Now, in “Chew: Special Agent Poyo” #1, Poyo’s back in the Chew-verse and gets some star treatment. What’s not to like about that? Everyone likes homicidal roosters and chicken jokes.
Like Poyo’s name, “Chew: Secret Agent Poyo” #1 is ridiculous, stupid fun. ‘s like “Chew,” but on steroids. At first, I wondered why writer John Layman and artist Rob Guillory didn’t just revive Poyo in a regular issue of “Chew.” After reading this issue, it’s clear that they wanted to take off any self-imposed restraints and write about Poyo in whatever cracked-out fashion their fancy took them.
Until now, I don’t think I appreciated how much the ongoing “Chew” series is grounded by Tony Chu’s sensible, deadpan, world-weary persona. Tony Chu is the opposite of crazy. “Chew: Secret Agent Poyo” is Poyo’s comic down to the (chicken) bone and Poyo is nuts.
Accordingly, the tone of “Chew: Special Agent Poyo” #1 is more manic and unfocused than regular “Chew.” It’s also strangely less imaginative than most “Chew” issues. At least, it feels less substantive thematically and has less food metaphors. It does less to build the mythos of the Chew-verse.
This lack of serious narrative development would be bad for an issue of an ongoing comic, but it’s fine, even ideal, for a humor one-shot. A one shot should illuminate a small corner of the universe it spins off from, and a humor comic should elicit smiles and snickers and “Chew: Secret Agent Poyo” does both these things.
Most of the action of the issue is set in the U.K., probably because Layman just wanted gleefully put the words “you daft blighter” and “Freeholdshire-Upon-Marsh” on the page. More power to him! The plot is a parody of any number of action movies and it functions well enough as a shell to fill with jokes. Some jokes come from Layman’s delight in crazy wordplay (“thermonuclear microfusion transventricular cardiopulonary bioengine”). Some jokes are entirely visual, such as a shout-out to the original Image Comics founders.
Speaking of visuals, Rob Guillory’s art is distinctive, confident and has smooth panel-to-panel transitions. Also, Guillory’s attention to detail enhances Poyo’s character. The pimply bumps on Poyo’s comb and wattle and his magnificent chin feathers distinguish him from your average rooster. There’s also that mad glint in Poyo’s eye. Can a rooster look almost blind with rage and driven to exact vengeance? Can a rooster appear foolishly besotted with adoration for a chicken whom he sees across a crowded sky? Can a rooster look like he is skulking surreptitiously down a hill? Believe it, because Guillory has drawn it.
Near the end of the issue, in the space of three-fourths of a page, Layman and Guillory give readers the most succinct, most brilliant parody of action movie love affairs I have ever seen. If you think that “barnyard animals falling through the air” and “millisecond-long love affair charged with pathos” don’t mix, think again. That page alone is worth the price of the comic. If you enjoy “Chew” regularly, chances are that “Chew: Secret Agent Poyo” will also be to your taste.