After the epic fight between Tony and the Collector in the “Blood Puddin'” arc, it appeared as though “Chew” might have nowhere to go except to wind down. However, Layman and Guillory don’t play the expected cards in “Chew” #52, part two of the “Last Suppers” arc. The previous issue focused exclusively on Olive’s adventures, but this issue is less of a stand-alone and it circles back to some dangling plot threads.
The first scene ends with a beautifully timed punchline. The one-sidedness of the conversation between Savoy and Senator Hamantaschen is a good hint, but I was still taken off guard. The dialogue also conveniently fills the reader in on some bird flu backstory as well as Savoy’s motivations and theories. Guillory’s artwork conveys a lot about this younger version of Savoy, who has the same fanatic zeal as current-day Savoy, but he’s less cynical, less corrupt and thus more vulnerable. Savoy’s earnestness makes his near-monopoly on the dialogue believable, and so Layman avoids the pitfalls of an information dump.
The second scene returns to the present day, and Layman makes a splash by dropping another surprise on the reader, which Guillory makes even more dramatic with a detailed two-page spread. As usual, “Chew” is worth carefully re-reading just to catch all the purely visual jokes in both the foregrounds and backgrounds. For instance, in the middle of a montage sequence, there’s a hilarious sight gag for those who grew up with General Mills monster-themed breakfast cereals. Even Layman’s lettering becomes meta-humor in two places, where the onomatopoeic written sound effects feature the word “Chew” in the same font as the cover text.
It’s good to see Chu and Colby in action side-by-side like the old days, with some of their old camaraderie. Guillory’s facial expressions and body language are as skillful as ever. Tony and John’s bug-eyed expressions when they get their new assignment are hilarious, even though the reader can see it coming. Guillory’s work is even finer when Tony’s face changes as he calls Amelia and when he tenses with anger around Savoy. Guillory uses a lot of perspective changes to keep the action exciting, but his transitions are flawlessly smooth. The composition of the parachuting panel is especially elegant and imaginative, too. Guillory’s linework has a zany, manic energy to it, and he doesn’t go for realism, so it’s easy to overlook his strengths in showmanship and drawing.
Guillory’s color work is also versatile and unusual, from the pea-green skies in the first panel to shifting hues behind Amelia’s desk. When he uses atypical hues, Guillory’s choices always serve a purpose beyond just creating visual noise. The green in the skies reinforces the plot point of illness and the grim mood and the colors behind Amelia indicate the passage of time; a less inventive colorist would have defaulted to grays, purples or blues for some of the same effects.
I’m pleased Layman and Guillory are running further with the science fiction aspects of “Chew” while keeping its well-developed cast intact. “Chew” #52 has intricate plotting and it builds up suspense and lays more groundwork for the skywriting mystery. It’s sad the end of “Chew” is creeping ever closer, but take comfort in how there’s no dip in quality from this remarkably reliable creative team, even after the biggest boss battle is over.