Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chew - now this is good stuff!

Chew by John Layman (Author), Rob Guillory (Artist)

Ever since I first posted on this here blog I’ve been writing (off and on) about trying to find a comic that plays both to the strengths of the medium in terms of imagery and maturity in storytelling and narrative. I believe I’ve found that in Chew. I’ve read the first two trades and feel like I’ve found another comic that fits into the ideal niche for me. The characters are not drawn to look realistic and the plot is not exactly something you can do in many other forms. The structure of the stories, from the prologue to payoff to the larger underlying narrative are all masterfully created and simply fun to read.

The content is a mixture of grotesque gore and the theatrical grotesque. The characters are being asked to partake in activities that go against the very nature of what they feel is right, yet they do it because of their commitment to a greater value they hold. They want truth, justice and to do the right thing and the roadblocks they hit always play upon their actual skills (be it chibopath or police training).

The grotesquery is all mixed up together in proper proportions, like any good recipe. There is humour and there is a plot that has some real consequences for the characters playing simultaneously. This isn’t done easily or all that often in comics. It’s a bit how you can enjoy Hellboy as both a supernatural tale and because the characters approach it like any blue collar day job with the language to match. Here, it’s a boss trying to literally make an employee eat crap mixed in with a police mystery.
This is how I like my cartooning. There is a basis in reality in that the characters all behave logically within the world they find themselves. There is grim subject matter, but there is no excessive grimness in how the characters deal with their reality. They have the full range of emotions from love, hate, silly to angry - all wonderfully rendered in an unique style. But they also have talents, skills and technological upgrades that would just look silly if this was going for a realistic look. And, really, why would I want realism in a comic book? Why limit it in that manner when there is enough other media that handle it better. To me, comics are best when they go for broke and use the visuals to convey a world that can’t exist in reality, and Chew certainly achieves that. The nature of the art lets the characters act and exaggerate in ways that just doesn’t work in other media, which is why I’m reading a comic in the first place. Good stuff.