The new definition for something that is badass, funny, bonkers, cosmic, and just downright bizarre all at the same time is Outer Darkeness/Chew. Use it in a sentence! For example, “that new David Lynch movie is completely Outer Darkness/Chew!” Okay, there’re a few grammatical kinks to work out, but it still does the job of describing what is surely the wildest ride in comics today. The only thing it did wrong was end.
The third and last chapter of the very short crossover series embraces all of the culinary and sci-fi horror beats it had established in the previous entries to cap it all off as neatly as possible. The crew of the Charon (the spaceship housing the characters from the Outer Darkness comic) found a way to create living holograms out of the two main characters from the Chew universe, Tony Chu and Jack Colby, in order to communicate with an alien race that only speaks through food. Chu’s abilities allow him to do the same and he is successful, but then he learns he isn’t real and that he originally comes from a comic book universe.
And that’s just the premise.
This book works as a fascinating look at how the creative mind works and how well-suited comics are for letting imagination run free, crash into a tree, and then produce an unforgettable story. John Layman, Afu Chan, and Rob Guillory are all conscious of the ridiculous amounts of crazy they can bring to the comics page while never compromising the story. It’s impressive to see the rules of the two stories in this crossover—which are already self-indulgent and gleefully over the top—get broken and remade into fresh and unpredictable story threads.
Fans of Chew have a lot of Easter eggs and callbacks to look forward too, especially every time Poyo is involved. There’s an interesting twist with the mechanisms that allow the holograms to exist that brings the crossover full circle and gets the comic to speak in the voices of the two original comics simultaneously. If one felt that the first two issues might lean too heavily on Chew or vice versa, this third and last issue is where the creators get the balance between the two just right.
Afu Chan’s art captures the spirit of the Chew characters despite being drawn in the style of Outer Darkness. I did wish Rob Guillory would’ve have illustrated the Chew characters throughout the story as his cartoony designs are quite striking and so imbedded into the identity of that book. But this is a minor gripe and I know it is asking for a lot. Still, I wouldn’t have minded more Guillory pages in the crossover.
In the letter’s department, Pat Brosseau manages to infuse the text with the same energy exploding out of the panels. Demons and other creatures possess different text fonts to capture the sound or feel behind the words they impart. It adds another layer to the storytelling and it makes each page feel even more alive.
In a perfect comic book world, this crossover would be its own on-going series. The setting, the exchanges between characters, and the cast as a whole is more than enough to sustain a long-running series for years to come. Alas, it came down to three issues. Thankfully, this brief trek into crossover territory turned out to be the most fun I’ve had with a comic in a while. It makes me want to read more unusual crossover stories (perhaps one with another John Layman or Rob Guillory title? Say Leviathan or Farmhand?). Regardless, what this story brought was well worth the read and is sure to become a favorite for many, many readers.
Script: John Layman Art: Afu Chan and Rob Guillory
Story: 9.0 Art: 10 Overall: Buy and then write the creators demanding more of it!
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review