I am a picky eater.
That alone will cause some consternation with folks. People hate picky eaters like we’re some kind of blight on society. For transparency’s sake: I’ll try almost anything new that I have not eaten before. I don’t have a problem with trying foods, and I eat a lot more than just, like, chicken tenders or whatever everyone thinks picky eaters eat. It’s just that, for whatever reason, there’s a lot of stuff I can’t stand unless it’s EXTREMELY well-disguised. And even then… depends on the food. Sauerkraut is the biggest thing; no one on Earth can convince me that stuff is supposed to be imbibed by humans. I’ve passed more pleasant dumpsters in August.
Ham, mushrooms, ketchup, mayonnaise… I’m not eating any of those. Look, there’s a lot of stuff. It could really be its own comics-absent article, is what I’m saying.
ANYWAY, the point is (there’s a point!) that there is a comic where the protagonist is ALSO a picky eater! I am intrigued.
Writer and Artist: John Layman and Rob Guillory
Protagonists: Tony Chu
Antagonists: I don’t know. Some other people? Bear with me.
This book has won awards! Multiple Eisner and Harvey Awards! Wow!
I’m noting that because I have not, over the course of Off The Rack, had many wildly contradictory opinions. I’m not the kind of guy who is going to “Watry” you to death here in the Movies/TV/Comics section and tell you why objectively great things are awful or why obviously bad things are terrific. I haven’t been particularly antagonistic to you, the faithful reader, so just hear me out on this one, please!
I hated this book. HATED it. I had intended to read the first ten issues for you, but getting through the first five—the Taster’s Choice arc—was a struggle, and I left it there. It’s not so much, I suppose, that the story or the plot or the characters were bad (but nothing about them really stood out, either)… it’s that the book is disgusting.
The premise of the story is that Tony Chu is a detective who is a cibopath, which the book repeatedly explains is someone who “feels” the life experiences of anything he eats (so, as the book explains, if he eats an apple he can feel the sensation of the fruit growing, the pesticides used on it, and being picked and packaged. If he eats beef, he gets the sensation of a cow being slaughtered). In the first issue, Tony eats a killer who had slit his own throat to avoid arrest so that Tony can get his memories and solve several cold cases. And that’s the mildest gross-out that the book goes for because it’s so damn over-the-top. The book is full of scenes with people spitting in others’ drinks, wiping snot on food, and Tony being forced to chow down on rotting fingers and dead dogs. There is an entire issue early on centering around people just projectile vomiting everywhere, including Tony taking some right to his face.
Book is friggin’ gross is what I’m saying.
And that is what I took away from this series. Not the plot or the characters, but how often it made me feel like I was about to throw up everything I even considered eating in the last three days. I’ll put this on me; I accept that. I am a queasy, weak-stomached dude. My wife watches horror movies and medical shows on television, and a lot of the stuff she is fine with, I have to look away because I just can’t. But come on… this was just every zany gross-out teen comedy I didn’t like when I was younger. There was an entirely inconsequential flick called Tomcats (I think?), and in it, a character has a cancerous testicle removed. Whacky situations unfurl, and someone ends up eating that testicle. That’s… yep… to me, that scene from that crappy movie is this entire comic series. On repeat.
There’s a plot of some consequence running through the series that the government has banned the sale, consumption, and possession of chicken because it may or may not have killed millions of Americans in an avian flu outbreak. There are people, like Chu’s brother, who believe this is all a huge conspiracy, and the FDA has been bumped up to FBI level authority over it. I wish I could get more into this plot, but I can’t, because this book makes me dry-heave.
That’s what it boils down to. There is stuff happening in this book that may or may not (but probably does) become engaging and interesting, but I just couldn’t get past the price of admission with all the disgusting scenes.
Talking Point: I was sad when I found that this was an award-winning book because I feel like my gut is costing me a decent series, so… what well-regarded series is one that just wasn’t for you for whatever reason?
No beating around the bush here; I loathed this story. It just felt like all the gross-out bits were aimed at the lowest common denominator of readers, and the story, while somewhat interesting, was not so substantial that I could overlook people eating decaying digits. The art wasn’t my flavor, either. Folks with a cast-iron stomach or a love for teen gross-out comedies may be able to get into the story for the long-haul, but… not me. It’s about as “not for me” as any story I’ve ever read.