Food is the theme for this week’s CF, but in keeping with this writer’s preference for ultra-violent and sometimes deviant comic books, it will deal with two graphic novels that are unique in concept as well as execution.
The first is Anthony Bourdain’s Get Jiro! which came out in July. Most people reading this magazine are likely to know who he is, so I am not going to waste any words on him. Suffice it to say that he is a chef and writer, and when a chef who is also a writer sets about visualizing a dystopian future, you can bet your last California roll that it will have something to do with food. So, there are food wars and chef wars in this future, and it helps that Jiro is a sushi chef who can wield a knife (and sword)—and how.
Get Jiro! is illustrated by Langdon Foss, whose work lingers longingly on the surfeit of food on display in this comic, and just as bloodily deals with the excess of violence on offer. The book may well have a deep message about the zeal with which most of us approach food, the extent to which we’d go to protect our tastes, and an even deeper message about how we are eating ourselves out of exotic food; but these, I believe, are completely incidental to a beautifully told blood-and-gore-filled story starring chefs. Bring on the next course, I say.
And now, Constant Reader, to gross you out. Chew, by John Layman (and illustrated by Rob Guillory) is about an FDA agent, Tony Chu, who is a cibopath—a word that is, as far as I can make out, an invention of the writer—or someone who can tell the backstory of anything, including a corpse, by taking a bite of it.
Yes, it’s gross, but Layman and Guillory do such a good job that after a few pages it’s easy to suspend, not one’s sense of disbelief but one’s overwhelming feeling of being grossed out, and continue reading a story that is simply brilliant for its inventiveness. Like Get Jiro!, Chew is set in the future, but one where all chicken and bird meat is banned after a bird-flu epidemic that killed tens of millions. And like many other comic books it deals with a deep and dark conspiracy (in this case a planned outbreak of bird flu). Chu tries to get to the bottom of it all in a circuitous way involving several engrossing digressions and diversions, including exploding space stations, Area 51, and frogs genetically enhanced to taste like chicken.
R. Sukumar is editor, Mint. Write to him at email@example.com.