Psychic eating powers, bird flu-related conspiracies, and ass-kicking FDA agents more or less round out the major plot points in Chew, the latest full color comic book venture from writer John Layman (Puffed, Army of Darkness/Xena: Why Not?) and artist Rob Guillory. In July, Chew, which centers around Agent Tony Chu, FDA, earned the Eisner Award for Best New Comic Book Series, and here's why:

Agent Tony Chu, hero of the aforementioned quasi-eponymous new comic book series, is a cibopath. That is, he receives extra-sensory impressions from everything he eats. Sounds cool, but if Tony were to take a bite of a potato, he would know when the crop had been harvested and what kind of pesticides were used on it. Or, as case would occasionally have it, he could take a bite of a dead body and know who the person is and how and why he ended up that way.

It's understandable then that Tony doesn't eat much unless he has to solve a case. And the FDA has had their hands full regulating the poultry ban: after a bird-flu scare, which may or may not have been a conspiracy, sale and consumption of poultry was outlawed in the U.S., recharging the black market with a new demand for chicken at any cost–even human blood. And when the FDA has their hands full, Tony gets a belly full.

Yes, it's up to Tony and his enormous, epicurean partner Mason Savoy, to use all their wiles to investigate this rash of chicken-related murders, chef and food critic disappearances, and the mysterious arrival of a new type of fruit that tastes remarkably like chicken. As tangled as it sounds, each book brings Tony one bite closer to the truth.

Chew, which debuted issue #13 last month, is creeping up on the quarter mark in its proposed 60-book series, and already Layman is rumored to be working on a television adaptation. Lucky for you it's not too late to catch up before issue #14 is released in mid-September. Issues 11-13 are sold individually for $2.99 each, and 1-10 have recently been collected into a lovely hardcover, available at your local comics shop.

Hi De Ho Comics: 525 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 394-2820. Meltdown: 7522 Sunset Blvd., Laurel Canyon; (323) 851-7223. Nuclear Comics & Skate Shop: 28985 Golden Lantern, Ste. B107, Laguna Niguel; (949) 363-1263.

LA Weekly