Why Isn't This A Film? - Chew

What have we got here then?

Chew is an ongoing comic book series by writer John Layman and artist Rob Guillory. The comic is currently published by Image and has been running since 2009.

OK fine. What’s it about?

Chew follows detective Tony Chu (see what they did there?) who gets psychic readings from whatever he eats (SEE WHAT THEY DID THERE?).

Interesting. Is there something more?

Chu discovers very early on that he is not the only so-called Cibopath in the world and teams up with a second person with the skill, Mason Savoy, at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fight various food-related crimes. The comic takes place in an alternate reality where bird flu has killed millions of people worldwide and the sale of chicken is strictly illegal.

Save me the trouble then – is it any good?

Layman's writing could perhaps be accused of lacking a little flair but Chew is still a fantastic, darkly-comic, detective story with a unique twist. The food angle gives the whole thing a pretty fresh (sorry) feel: this isn't just another detective story about a big gruff dude tracking down evil doers. Guillory's art is colourful and lively and individual page tones match the style and mood of the story being told. It's like a cross between Dexter, CSI and Ready, Steady, Cook.


Volume One's story arc is pretty predictable, even if the situations are not and the whole thing ends rather drably and with a couple of intriguing story threads ending up going nowhere - I'm sure these will be revealed and explored in due course during the series but still, there is a whiff of anti-climax by the time the end rolls around. That said, it's a very entertaining, original, series and the first five issues are strong throughout.

What are its chances of being made as a film?

In March 2011, Deadline reported that Chew was being adapted as a TV series. The fact that nothing has been seen of it since suggests that maybe the pilot didn't get an 'OK', or that it never got off the ground in the first place. The choice to go down the TV series route, like with The Walking Dead, could pay huge dividends but equally the first volume of the comic definitely feels more suited to a two hour film than a twelve-to-twenty episode TV series. That said, I can certainly see both working. If Chew's star continues to fly high amongst comic fans in the next few years then this should be a lock to appear on a screen of some size at some time in the near future.

But who'd star in it?

iFanboy went through the fictional casting exercise in October 2011 and before I'd even clicked on the article, Ken Leung was right at the forefront of my thoughts for Chu. The character looks very much like him, he's the right age and he's probably got enough presence to pull it off. Where iFanboy cite Lost as the touchstone, his appearance in Saw is a much better indication of what he'd do with an on-screen detective.

Mason - large, ginger-haired, well-spoken, charismatic - is surely Brendan Gleeson personified, although you'd perhaps struggle to get him for a small screen adaptation. Mason and Chu's boss, Mike Applebee, is the comic's worst-written character. There could certainly be large benefits to turning 'him' into a 'her' to help avoid the feeling of cliché and with her return to acting, Winona Ryder could prove a good adversary for the two agents (Applebee does not get on with, in particular, Chu). Love interest Amelia Mintz features little in Volume One but, hey, Jessica Alba desperately needs to appear in something good, so lets give it to her.

Will it be any good?

It should be but Hollywood/TV has problems with balancing out a tone that's both dark and threatening and light, colourful and original. There's a risk that this will end up being grotesquely badly handled and fall off into the void of other generic TV detective shows. The one shining light is that Dexter manages to balance a very similar tone with a great deal of skill, and seems to have done so for a number of years now.

Anything else I should know about it?

IGN Comics has a 9.5/10 review of the very first issue, which is well worth a look for the curious.

Why Isn't This A Film? is a regular Film Intel feature which takes a book (you know... one of those things with pages in, doesn't project on to a screen, makes small rustling noises), comic, video game or graphic novel and assesses its adaptation prospects. One day this feature will get something right and we will win something major and valuable. Possibly.

1 comment:

  1. After The Walking Dead more comics are going to go down that route. Having said that, I've read into this a little more now and the pitch for the TV series was pithy, comedy-orientated, half-hour episodes, which isn't what this deserves at all. No wonder it looks like its stalled.