Tuesday, October 4, 2011
As an Asian Pacific American reader who's enjoyed non-superhero comics way more than superhero comics because the superhero genre is often too right-wing, puerile and "Yay, white people!"-ish for my tastes (and as Patton Oswalt once noted in a 2003 interview, "Superheroes are so much about despair. Wanting someone to come out of the sky and fix things for me."), Chew is the kind of non-superhero comic I've always wanted to see: a crime title with an APA protagonist. But instead of being Captain Squarejaw or Super Asian Man, Agent Tony Chu is a much more relatable and down-to-earth figure: a good-humored detective (and perhaps not-so-great parent, which is indicated by the recent surprising revelation that he has an estranged teenage daughter) who's sometimes disgusted with what his extraordinary ability subjects him to.
An agent of the Special Crimes Division of the FDA (yes, that FDA), Chu is a cibopath, which means he gets psychic impressions from any item he eats, even when the item's not intended for consumption. If the item is crime scene evidence like a murder victim's severed limb, Chu will bite into it for the sake of the case, even though it kind of gives him the heebie-jeebies. We'd get the heebie-jeebies too if we were in Chu's shoes, which makes him an easily relatable hero.
It might sound like Chew is an overly dour series about a guy who finds his power to be a burden a la Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies or the execrably written TV series Heroes, but Chew is far from dour. It's funny as hell, and its rich writing, clever visuals and choice of an Asian American protagonist who's neither stereotypical nor one-dimensional are always worth trumpeting, whether it's in this series of weekly posts that I'm kicking off today or in a recent tweet of mine that ended up becoming one of my most popular tweets because Guillory retweeted it.