In this column, I feature comic book reviews written by my students at Oxford College of Emory University. Oxford College is a small liberal arts school just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I challenge students to read and interpret comics because I believe sequential art and visual literacy are essential parts of education at any level (see my Manifesto!). I post the best of my students’ reviews in this column. Today, I am proud to present a review by Arden Godfrey:

Arden Godfrey is a freshman at Oxford College of Emory University and is pursuing a double major in Psychology and German Studies with the intent to go to medical school for the Genetic Counseling program. She hails from Birmingham, Alabama and is often found jamming out to musical theater songs, dancing to anything she hears, and constantly participating in any theater performance she can. Although her absolute dream would to be a huge Broadway star, she wishes to pursue her other love of helping people and genetics to become a Genetic Counselor.

”CHEWChew (vol. 1) by John Layman (writer) & Rob Guillory (artist)

Chew (vol.1) creates a post-bird-flu-pandemic world watched heavily by the special crimes division of the Food and Drug Administration or FDA for short. Due to its cannibalistic qualities and overall gore and violence, the comic identifies more with a teen and adult audience used to the violence of TV and Cinema as opposed to young children. In a world of few uniquely talented cibopaths (people who get psychic readings from food they consume), Chew illustrates a world grasped in governmental control where those with these unique talents are highly valued to help solve crimes and catch criminals. Revealing a grotesque, government controlled society full of food and murder, Chew invites in fans of horror comics and criminal comics alike to enjoy this satisfying series.

In a world where owning and consuming chicken is illegal, Tony Chu, a cibopathic cop, finds himself dealing with criminals and occasionally gets wrapped up in dangerous situations caused by his powers along with his partner, John Colby, whom he hates. When Tony’s powers get him too far in over his head, he finds himself dealing with the FDA Special Crimes Division, alongside Agent Mason Savoy. Throughout the series, Tony’s limits are put to the test to solve crimes riddled with illegal chicken and murder. By eating certain “undesirable meats” to gain psychic readings, Tony Chu goes along trying to help solve serious violations and crimes with the FDA Special Crimes Division. With no true villain introduced throughout the first five issues, the audience is left in suspense wondering who the “big bad” will be and what all Tony Chu’s clues are leading him too. John Layman presents a twisted chain of events that Tony must live through to help uncover the truth behind what actually happened with the bird-flu epidemic and the FDA seizing control. Leaving off on a cliff-hanger and adding in lots of suspense, John Layman draws you in to keep reading issue after issue until the very end. With food, cannibalism, love, and betrayal all around, Chew (vol.1) paints the picture of a post-ban United States with high government protocols and protections implemented, a comic which any true conspiracy theorist would love to sink their teeth into.

My personal favorite scene centers on secondary character Amelia Mintz, whose saboscrivner talents landed her the job of writing a food column. Saboscrivners are people who can write about food so vividly and accurately, it gives you a sense of the taste. She paints pictures with her writing so realistic you can taste it, which is why when she writes about and describes terrible food, disaster ensues. In this scene, people all over the city are reading one of her reviews in various places such as work or the bus. She paints a picture of a D-list restaurant so vividly it causes readers to taste the food that was so horrific and causes them to vomit just reading about it. I found this scene to highlight the quirkiness of this comic and show the black comedy that laces the stories throughout the volume.

I love the artwork overall as Rob Guillory, the artist, truly illustrates the quirky nature of the comic and John Layman’s writing. Through a more simplistic style, but not lacking in detail, the artwork conveys the everyday life of the characters and everyone they meet. Rob Guillory captures the grotesque nature of certain aspects of the comic through his vivid detail and drawing of blood and guts. By using a style that does not truly beautify anyone, the art relays a feeling to the reader that relates to the majority who are just normal, average people. He exaggerates certain features of every character that help build on to personality development such as hooded dark eyes for Mike Applebee, Tony’s FDA boss, to show his crooked and dark humored personality as he revels in the pain of Tony Chu. Overall, the artwork’s quirky nature truly partnered the writing and led to the development of an amazing complimentary comic.

Chew (vol. 1) is a truly enjoyable read presenting real-life values through a fictional society relating what our lives would be like if a pandemic swept the world and caused the government to take more reign. With the ever-present fear of biological warfare on the brink of society, Chew’s pandemic fear and FDA-run world and ever-present conspiracy theories running rampant grant the comic a rating of four-and-a-half stars. With highly compatible writing and art, the story of Chew comes alive to present how the world would be if the government seized control after an epidemic, which some people believe was government created to keep society under their control.

Perhaps the one weakness is the John Layman’s wordy writing. He beautifully describes the story and keeps the reader entranced, but the wording was often extraneous and therefore constitutes the comic not receiving a full five stars. However, the story grabs the reader and doesn’t let go as they wish to find out what happens after every twist and turn thrown out in the comic. If post-apocalyptic, cannibalistic, government-secured societies interest you, then Chew is the next series for you to munch on. With graphic violence and content alike, Chew is aimed at teens, adults, and iZombie lovers for an intriguing read that leaves you questioning how the government plays a role in your life and what all they may be hiding.


  • Brad Hawley

    BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia.