Review: Outer Darkness/Chew #2
There’s no comic on the stands right now that’s having as much fun with its characters than Outer Darkness/Chew #2. This short three-issue crossover story from the minds of John Layman, Afu Chan, and Rob Guillory has reached its halfway point and it made sure every little bit of story got ramped up to 11. Oh, and it doubled down its most metafictional aspects and, well, I think they created a new type of meta in the process.
OD/C #2 sees Tony Chu and John Colby from Chew questioning the means through which they were transported to the world of Outer Darkness to speak with an alien that only communicates through food. They immediately realize that the whole “time-traveling” mumbo jumbo they got as an explanation for their presence isn’t all that genuine. And then it all goes meta.
Layman, Chan, and Guillory take this opportunity to really play around with the idea of one fiction inside another fiction and how it can essentially blow up into an entirely fresh and new kind of world-building. Tony and John realize they were brought into the spaceship, The Charon, by way of some kind of projection that extracts them from their comic book world. And by comic I mean the actual, literal comic. They even mention, and pass judgment, on its creators, Layman and Guillory.
A lot of the issue’s comedy finds itself lodged in this dynamic, with Tony trying to understand what reality is, or if it’s even something that exists for him and his friends, knowing they’re all part of a story created by Layman and Guillory. This actually serves as a good introduction to Chew, as John Colby proceeds to explain the comic’s history along with a few key details here and there. It doesn’t spoil Chew, though. But it makes a good case for diving into the comic whether you’re new to it or not.
With the knowledge of this meta mess Tony and John find themselves in comes the worry of what’ll happen once their services are no longer needed. From here, the story takes on a whole new life and the Food-Talking Alien plot takes a backseat to the fight for the meta survival of the Chewverse.
As fun and outrageous as this is, the shift did take me by surprise, with speed bump or two along the way. The change drastically shifts the balance of the story towards the Chewverse, leaving Outer Darkness a little in, well, the dark. That side of the story feels a bit underdeveloped in this second issue, especially in terms of character development. It makes me wish this crossover were an issue or two longer so that the Outer Darkness crew got some more breathing room.
Also, as much as I love Afu Chan’s art, I wish Guillory’s art also featured more in the issue, and the crossover as a whole. I hope the creative team takes advantage of the different visual styles in both series to mess around with the art in the upcoming final issue.
I did appreciate the scope of the fan service and easter eggs found in the comic. Fans of Guillory’s newest work, for instance, will have a thing or two connecting it to the stories found here and Afu Chan seems to be sneaking in pop culture references in the monster designs (with one in particular reminding me of a famous clown who was seen in theaters not too long ago). This is what I meant by world-building earlier. Each page brings something with it that connects it to the different series, and they can only go bigger. I’m thinking the next issue will double down on this.
I can honestly say I have absolutely no idea what issue #3 of OD/C is going to bring, and this makes me very happy. Despite Outer Darkness being left out a bit in this part of the story, what Layman, Chan, and Guillory have achieved here is gleefully unique and well worth the price of admission. If you buy one comic this week, make sure it’s this one.
Story: John Layman Art: Afu Chan and Rob Guillory,
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0
Recommendation: Buy and then read all of Chew
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review