After establishing itself as the best new series in comics in 2009, 2010 has seen Chew solidify its position as one of the most consistently entertaining and inventive comics out there. It’s the sort of series where single issues don’t tend to jump out on their own, but instead the ongoing narrative has developed depth and interest on a month-by-month basis. It’s probably the comic out there that most resembles a TV series (even down to the obvious real-actor casting of some of its characters), and this was perhaps most apparent with the excellent Thanksgiving-set issue #15, which felt particularly like an “end of season one” moment.
It now becomes clear that that first year-and-a-bit was all about getting the characters in place and set up for the reader – and even as it felt like major plots were happening, it transpires that in fact this was all setup for the plot itself to begin as of issue #16 onwards. #15 offered one last revelation about Tony’s background, introducing one last character to the core group, and confirmed in its closing pages that the story was moving into a scope bigger and wider than had previously seemed the case.
Through all of this, the series has remained devilishly witty – laugh-out-loud funny at times, even – and its strong emphasis on characterisation (in addition to the inventive ideas) is one of the things that sets it apart. Even though he’s (quite deliberately) made only fleeting appearances over the past year, there have been few better characters introduced in comics of late than Mason Savoy, and the promise of #15 – which featured him directly in scenes on his own rather than only showing him when he interacts with Tony – suggests that he will still have a major part to play in the book’s future, and that there’s still a great heap of moral ambiguity to come.
It’s odd that a series can make it as far as 15 issues and only then lay down a marker to say “Right, we’re getting going now” – but Chew has earned a great amount of goodwill by being such a solidly fun (and at times utterly demented) comic, with Layman admirably choosing not to just sit back on the one good idea (the series’ main hook) but instead scattering lots of great smaller ones throughout as well. I’ve enjoyed inhabiting its bonkers little world over the past year – it being one of those few series that I make sure not to miss the week it comes out – and the promise of the actual plot exploding into life makes it an appealing prospect to stick with for 2011 as well.