Friday, 12 July 2013

Chew, Volume 7: Bad Apples by John Layman and Rob Guillory review

Aw, man, this is a tough review to write because I love Chew - but this book is the first one I would say is average at best instead of out and out fantastic like the rest of the series has been. I suppose it had to happen, no series is flawless (except for Jason Aaron and RM Guera’s Scalped). 

The story so far: Tony’s sister Toni has been killed by the cibopathic vampire who seems to be preparing for a full-on war, and Tony is out for revenge. Meanwhile the egg worshippers who’re somehow connected to the fire writing in the sky, the Divinity of the Immaculate Ova, also seem to be knuckling down for some crazy combat and won’t shut up about the end of the world. Meanwhile Tony and Colby are back with the FDA and ready to kick some ass! LET’S DO IT!...

...except they don’t. 

John Layman could explore at least one of those interesting storylines in this book but chose instead to spin his wheels - that is, do nothing. Instead Tony throws himself into his work so there are numerous episodes of Tony taking on the egg worshippers (who’ve taken hostages at food places more than once in this book) and he takes them out using the baseball skills he honed earlier in the series (also more than once in this book). 

After Toni’s death and Tony’s reaction I thought for sure he would go guns blazing after the vampire, and he kind of does, but when he catches up with the vampire all that rage dissipates for no reason, they have a meal together, and then the vampire goes away. Why didn’t Tony just kill him straight off? 

Fair enough, if we’re saving the vampire for a later climax, what about the egg worshippers or the fire writing - can we get more into that? But no, it’s teased that we’ll find out about them in this book but don’t. The high priestess of the cult pops up more than once, says some more doom prophecies, and then disappears again. It’s so infuriating that Layman just won’t commit to any one of these storylines, instead leaving this book to be about... nothing. 

Well, that’s not fair, there is plenty of stuff happening in this book, but they’re small pieces here and there. The case of the energy drink that was designed to burn fat cells to help you lose weight and instead sets you on fire; the guy who makes ninja stars out of tortillas; Tony standing up to Applebee; and some brief panels showing Poyo fighting a giant gingerbread man and Pengthulu, a Lovecraftian penguin monster. All that stuff is great but they’re oh so brief (though I’m definitely on board for a Wild West Chew spinoff!). Also I felt Layman went overboard with the number of food-related weirdos in this book. We go from one per issue to somewhere near 12 in the second to last issue - its just too crazy and again feels like more wheel-spinning. 

Colby’s subplots aren’t that great either. There’s the ongoing thread about him and Applebee as lovers which feels like its run its course, but then factor in Director Penya too so that they’re this weird love triangle, and that whole thing just doesn’t feel very funny really - I kind of wish Layman had played it down instead of going into it nearly every issue. And the whole thing about Colby and Caesar in cahoots with Savoy was a dead end - it ended far too easily for a thread that got played up throughout the entire book.

Of course it’s not enough to stop me reading the series, I’m committed until the end, but Bad Apples felt like a lot of plate-setting rather than the more substantial book I was expecting. To use an appropriate food analogy, it’s like eating a series of delightful and well-made appetizers - and then discovering there’s no entree and that’s all you’re getting. 

Here’s hoping the next book is more filling!

Chew Volume 7: Bad Apples

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