Monday, November 14, 2011

Chew series by John Layman

Chew is a unique graphic novel series that follows psychic detective Tony Chu. Chu is a cibopath, meaning he can get psychic impressions from whatever he eats whether it is appetizing or not. Chew's world is charmingly food-themed and blends dark humor and clever detective stories. Here are the discussion questions for the upcoming book club:

1. Chew has been criticized for its lack of central driving plot element. Your thoughts?

After reading four trades, it seems to be coming together, but the first few do seem disconnected. The only driving element being of course the food-themed world and that Tony is a Cibopath.

2. How do Layman and Guillory play with the element of sequencing in each issue?

Layman and Guillory like to foreshadow and play with the element of time quite a bit. In one of the trades, they pretended to have a "panel mix up" in which a few of the pages are swapped to allow the reader to see future events.

3. Guillory said he wanted to make Chu the "least stereotypical Asian American ever." What is the importance of this?

I barely noticed that Chu was Asian, so congrats to Guillory. I think this plays into his character even more than race, Chu needed to be a blank slate since he has such a complex power. If his character were to be complex as well, the story would be in danger of becoming muddled.

4. Did you see the Mason Savoy twist coming?

No, actually, despite the fact that he is drawn kind of like Robotnik from Sonic games.

5. Chew has been dismissed as "just another zombie book." Obviously there are no zombies, how would someone draw that conclusion? What is the difference here?

It has the same gore and gross-out elements as a zombie book would and it became successful around the time that The Walking Dead really started growing. The difference is the lack of a post-apocalyptic world and the fact that most characters keep their limbs intact.

6. The psychic detective has been done many, many times especially in television. What separates Chew?

Obviously, the Cibopathic twist. It is quite the television trope, but it is a less common plot element in graphic novels and worth exploring I'd say.

7. Chew is a proposed 60 issue run. How do you think this affects Layman's storytelling and forthcoming issues?

This makes me happy. Series like Fables that continue well past their best story arc irritate me. The fact that there is a planned sixty issues says to me that Layman and Guillory have a planned story arc that they intend to finish.

8. The same people that adapted The Walking Dead are adapting Chew into a half hour comedy series. What makes Chew adaptable for television?

As previously mentioned, Chew follows the common television trope of a psychic detective. The case format works quite well for television, so that would make it easy to form episodic content.

9. What does Guillory's art style lend to Chew? Why does it work?

Guillory's art style is controversial, but I like the dirty lines and cartoonish looks of the characters. It is set in a quirky food-themed world and Guillory's art caters to that perfectly.

10. Chew seems to follow the formula of humor then more serious character development. What is so appealing about this balance to comics writers?

Without making readers care about the characters through mutual humor and development, creating drama is difficult. Hence the tendency to start light and get heavier as the plot thickens.

11. Chew favors an omniscient narrative form. Why this instead of the inner monologue of the psychic detective?

The inner monologue would have been extremely stereotypical and noir-feeling for what is supposed to be a light detective series.

12. Why beets?

Rob Layman has laymanted (ha!) that this question gets asked of him too often. Nobody knows why beets are the only thing that Chu does not get a psychic impression from. Perhaps it will be answered in later issues?