Concluding my column from Comics Buyer’s Guide #1680:
Chew has been nominated for multiple awards: Best Continuing
Series, Best Writer (John Layman), and Best Artist (Rob Guillory).
It got my vote in one of those categories, but, as to which one, I
am pleading the Fifth.
Published by Image, Chew features the adventures of Tony Chu, a
special agent in the special crimes division of the US Food and
Drug Administration. He’s a cibopath who gets psychic impressions
from anything he ingests. This is not a comic book for readers who
are easily grossed out.
In Chu’s America and in other parts of the world, chicken has been
outlawed. The FDA is vigilant and way harsh in prosecuting
poultry-related crimes, but there’s a conspiracy behind these new
laws waiting to be exposed.
I’ve been reading the series in trade paperbacks. In recent
chapters, we’ve seen the blossoming romance between Chu and writer
Amelia Mintz. She’s a saboscrivner, who writes so accurately about
food her readers can taste it. You don’t want to read her negative
reviews. We’ve also spent quality time with Tony’s family and his
partner. It’s a fun trip that seems to get wilder with every new
chapter. I love this series.
There are three Chew books to date:
Chew Vol. 1: Taster’s Choice ($9.99)
Chew Vol. 2: International Flavor ($12.99)
Chew Vol. 3: Just Desserts ($12.99)
My friend Bryan Talbot picked up a nomination in the category of
“Best Short Story,” but it’s his terrific Grandville Mon Amour
[Dark Horse; $19.99] I want to write about here. The graphic novel
is a sequel to Talbot’s Grandville, first in a series of adventures
starring Detective-Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard. As I
mentioned in my review of the first GN, LeBrock’s steampunk world
is one in which France was victorious in the Napoleonic Wars and
conquered England. It’s also a world of anthropomorphic animals
with humans occupying a somewhat lower rank in the social order.
This second book has LeBrock on the trail of a serial killer, but
the conspiracies and political intrigues of the first book are part
of the mix as well. The story is riveting, the art is nothing
short of gorgeous, and the comfort I take from Talbot’s genius is
I know how crazy hard he works on these books.
The Grandville graphic novels are books you’ll read again and
again. Each reading reveals new details...and there’s a third one
in the works.
Reviewing a second war comics collection this month might seem at
odds with my cheery summer reading theme, but Showcase Presents Our
Army at War Volume One [DC; $19.99] delivers so much for your money
I can't resist recommending it to you. At the ridiculously low cost
of a buck an issue, this book reprints the first 20 issues of the
classic DC war title.
Sgt. Rock was the star of Our Army at War, but didn’t show up for
the first several years of the title’s existence. Instead, readers
enjoyed four anthology tales per issue with settings that ranged
from the entire history of U.S. warfare. While not as hard-edged
as the stories published by EC or Atlas, these DC stories were
solidly written with equally solid art. The latter may have been
subservient to the sometimes bland DC house style of the early
1950s, but the great artists - there were many of them - overcame
that limitation. Standout artists included Gene Colan, Russ Heath,
Bernie Krigstein, Irv Novick, Jerry Grandenetti, Joe Kubert, Ross
Andru and Mike Esposito, and others.
Reading this collection was a historical adventure for me as I
discovered several writers and artists I’d never heard of before.
Besides stories by such DC and comics veterans as Robert Kanigher,
Ed Herron, William Woolfolk, Dave Wood, and Robert Bernstein, there
were tales by David Kahn, John Reed, Nat Barnett, Art Wallace, and
Joseph Daffron, whose script in Our Army at War #20 [March, 1954]
is the only Daffron story to be found on the Grand Comics Database
[www.comics.org]. Was Daffron a one-shot writer or are there other
scripts by him awaiting future discovery?
The book contains many stories by Hal Kanter, a writer whose name
I instantly recognized, just not from comic books. DC misspelled
Kanter’s name in the credit, but, in addition to his comics work,
he has been a prolific writer (and producer and director) of many
TV shows and movies. You’ll find his name on All in the Family and
Julia, as well as films like Dear Brigitte, My Favorite Spy, Road
to Bali, and, fittingly, 1955's Artists and Models, a Dean Martin
and Jerry Lewis movie in which Martin played a fine artist slumming
as a comic-book artist and Lewis an impressionable young man hooked
on comic books. I wonder if he ever wrote any of DC’s Bob Hope or
Jerry Lewis comics.
On the artistic end, I was amazed to see how many stories Gene
Colan drew in these issues. There are 20 Colan-drawn tales herein,
sometimes two of them in an issue. The inking isn’t always suited
to Colan’s style, but his flair for facial expressions and figures
in motion still comes through in each tale.
I also found a great new-to-me artist in Eugene Hughes. There are
just six stories by him in this book, but his gritty style and sure
storytelling made an impression on me.
This bargain-priced, black-and-white behemoth of a book gives you
over 500 pages of comics for $19.99. That should cover a few good
afternoons kicking back in the summer sun. I’d recommend it on the
basis alone, but I have an ulterior motive.
I want to encourage DC Comics to publish more collections of its
non-character titles. It well and truly floats my boat to get to
read so many comic books I’d never even seen before. If books like
Showcase Presents Our Army at War Volume One sell well, I suspect
DC will bring us more of them. They win, you win, and, of course,
See you tomorrow.
© 2011 Tony Isabella