Chew: the Omnivore Edition, Vol 1 | John Layman
Summary: Tony Chu is a good detective – but his particularly unusual ability to get impressions from what he eats is why he works for the Special Crimes Division of the FDA, the most powerful law enforcement agency on the planet (think near future or alternate universe). Just what does he have to eat to work in this frenetic, harrowing job? Nearly anything (and everything). His brother is on the lam, his partner doesn’t see eye to eye, his love life is nonexistent, and his boss HATES him, sending Chu out on the nastiest of assignments. Suggestion – don’t eat lunch over this work until you’ve read a few stories in and tested your mettle.
Gush Sesh: Chu is an interesting protagonist – he’s certainly imperfect, but you have to admire his stubborn resilience. The Omnivore Edition shares the first 2 series of 5 comics, Taster’s Choice and International Flavor. These works concentrate on Chu’s mundane life, how he switched jobs to the FDA, and shows us what cibopathy is like from Chu’s point of view. The grotesqueries shown in these stories are hurkable if one is of a delicate constitution, so don’t leave this out where the unprepared can casually page through. Don’t worry – no actual recipes are included.
Locke & Key, Vol 1: Welcome to Lovecraft | Joe Hill
Summary: The first of Locke & Key introduces the major players and gets plot rolling with several events over a period of just over three months. There are some important flashbacks and explanations offered between events so be prepared to read slowly – try not to miss the details, both visual and as written. If you like number one, you are going to love numbers 2 through 6 (number 7 exists as short extra stories rather than a continuation of the main plot). As you finish the first book, the family of main characters are in place to give each other support and question what’s happening around them, the antagonist is zeroing in on what they want and how to get it, and the mysteries of Keyhouse are only just coming to light. There are literally SOOOOOO many keys – why, any door might be opened!
Gush Sesh: The Locke & Key series is a brilliant psychological journey into how one reacts to trauma. Each character is individual and tells a personal side to their story from the others. The excitement of Joe Hill’s written plot is perfectly matched by the intense art of Gabriel Rodriguez. The whole series is riddled with the supernatural and the extraordinary. You could enjoy this issue as a stand-alone, but honestly, you’ve barely started down a long, scary, winding path and the storm is coming – you might want to run for shelter.
Identity Crisis | Brad Meltzer
Summary: Using the well-established DC supers universe, this mystery of lethal attacks upon the family members of heroes brings everyone together for a common purpose. Meeting at one victim’s funeral, the heroes (well-knowns and not-so) divide their efforts toward their particular strengths. The brains go off detecting, the bruisers hunt down the most likely suspects, and the private cabal of we-might-know-who-really-did-this secret keepers debate how to handle this next chapter in their lives. Can they stop the attacks so no one else is hurt or should all the innocent family members go into hiding – or will it really help at all? If you already love the DC super world, this exposing story still might shock you in several places.
Gush Sesh: The first few chapters can render me extremely emotional – make sure to have a tissue standing by just in case. I love this mystery so hard, it doesn’t matter that I’ve read it a dozen times and know how it ends. Rereading it gives me another perspective or nuance to notice, there are that many characters and points of view in play. It’s not an easy read – if you are unfamiliar with any of the most famous DC heroes, this probably won’t register as an exemplary work, both written and illustrated. But if, like me, you are a cast-in-the-mold-geek for superhero stories, it might become your favorite DC product as well.
Marvel 1602 | Neil Gaiman
Summary: Gaiman’s alternate (or time-travelling/changed) world involving supers is genius. It involves just about EVERYONE in the pantheon of Marvel characters, good or bad, and real historically important figures from that time. Queen Elizabeth I and King James of Scotland rival for these extraordinary persons’ attention and abilities while the Roanoke Colony makes an appearance late in the story. With several mysteries to solve and twists in the plot, familiar faces are often shown in a light that’s different from that with which we are familiar. There is death (and undeath) for some, notoriety and fame for others, turns of loyalty to question and sacred trusts to protect.
Gush Sesh: As beautiful as the artwork by Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove is, this story is best told through the writing. Read every bubble and note and go slowly enough to absorb the information you glean. You may find yourself rereading whole sections or pages to find the hidden hint to someone’s identity. Elizabethan court intrigue, ‘witchbreed’ mutants, assassins, holy relics, the Inquisition, AND the whole of the Marvel universe 400 years in the past? Yes, please!
Watchmen | Alan Moore
Summary: This is another ‘like our world but different because’ enter-reason-here Earth history being retold with the most current portion taking place in the 1980s. This version of the world changed in the 1940s and 1960s as ‘masks’ or vigilantes became a necessary evil to fight off crime. Whether you called them heroes or not was up to you, the government at the time, and the general public perception. They had varied motivations and worked alone or in teams to better their communities, serve a political agenda, shorten the life of a war, or strike justice into the hearts of the criminally violent with criminal levels of violence. A familiarity with the 1980s doomsday clock as relates to the cold war will help many angles become clearer, but careful reading will also entertain and educate.
Gush Sesh: If you are completely unfamiliar with the original material, consider dedicating a few days to reading the first 12 issues collected together into one bound copy of Watchmen from the mid-80s. The characters are those you met in the movie (2009) or TV mini-series (2019), but the pre-fall-of-the-Berlin-wall story has enough to it alone for a satisfactory read – especially if you DON’T SKIP the ephemera (extras). Watchmen was a turning point for graphic novels/comics where we find those works that came after either aping the grit and violence Alan Moore introduced or delving more deeply into serious thought-provoking themes (the fragility of humanity, the destiny of nuclear annihilation). There are a few laughs sprinkled throughout, but note that even the most clearly defined of ‘heroes’ who thinks the world is black and white is NOT a nice guy – in fact, he’s not really socially functional. I love this work and encourage adults and mature teens to examine it with patience.