In “Chew” #46 by John Layman and Rob Guillory, the FDA marches on after last issue’s bloody battle. Tony gets assigned yet another new partner as a new FDA interim director steps in, and Colby’s plan is partially revealed.
“Chew” #46 begins with prologue set in the ninth level of Hell. The sequence and the punchline are predictable, but its primary purpose is to reassure readers about Poyo’s fate after the last issue’s shocking ending. It won’t be the last readers will see of Poyo, even though Layman sneakily suggests that the prologue events may just be wishful thinking. Guillory makes the scene worth the panel space regardless with several background visual jokes, including Satan’s TV dinner, a cameo appearance by Hitler and photo portraits of Kim Jong-un, Charles Manson and Dan Quayle.
The characters in “Chew” often seem two-dimensional until suddenly they’re not flat anymore. Layman gets Colby off the bench and beats him up in record time. Prior to the last story arc, Colby was first a foil to Tony, and then his complicated personal life was fodder for various plot shenanigans. Right now, he’s never been more important to the plot. Despite how pretty much all of Colby’s action and ideas have been epic fails during his brief time in the limelight, Guillory’s skills with facial expressions and body language keep Colby sympathetic. It’s obvious that Colby wants to make amends and he’s also probably in psychological shock from guilt and grief, but no one at the FDA or USDA is keeping an eye on him. This keeps his actions believable as well as exciting. Layman has always been good about keeping the reader’s disbelief suspended, and “Chew” #46 is a great example. Gummi tanks and new food powers are all just more fun in the Chew-verse, but Colby’s motivations must add up, and they do. Colby never gets to say what he’s up to, and the reader has to infer from context, which is another neat display of Layman and Guillory’s skills.
The rest of “Chew” #46 checks in with the survivors of last issue’s massacre. Nothing really huge happens, with the exception of how Colby changes his plan on the last page. Tony’s new mission and his hilarious interactions with his new partner take a backseat to Colby’s plans in emotional impact, but its normalcy also keeps “Chew” more even-toned. The Sugar Rush Sweet Shack case, like most of Tony’s smaller missions, is quickly wrapped up. It’s extra satisfying in “Chew” #46, however, because it’s proof that the show does go on, even when several agents are dead or in critical condition. The interim director of the FDA is amusing, even though readers don’t see much of him, and Tony’s new partner is even more hilarious.
Layman and Wells’ color work in “Chew” #46 doesn’t draw much attention to itself, but it enhances the storytelling by emphasizing character entrances and clarifying the back and forth of conversations. The art team makes subjects like the jaw breaker cannon pop over neutral backgrounds, and the color also guides the reader through the characters’ moods that range from depressed to manic.
“Chew” #46 doesn’t suffer even though several major characters are temporarily out of commission, and Layman and Guillory show that they can stick the landing of their most shocking plot twist to date.