THE STORY: "Chew: " by John Layman (W) and Rob Guillory (A) – Image Comics
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: If there's one cop who understands the adage "You are what you eat," it's Tony Chu.
As a Cibopath, Chu sees the secret history of everything he eats. Eating an apple, for example, gives him a psychic impression of its life from orchard to shopping cart, meaning he'll know everything from how ripe it was when it was picked to what kind of fertilizer was in the soil it grew from. His gift is his curse, however, as he's often forced to nibble corpses and other taboo ingestibles in order to take a bite out of crime.
It's not long before his ability gets him noticed by the government's top brass who may or may not have his — or anyone else's — best interests at heart.
WHY IT WORKS: Cibopathic crime fighting is a fresh concept that combines comedy with police procedural and ices it with super-powered goodness. There have been many supernatural cop premises over the years, but nothing as messy and adventurous as what "Chew" brings to the table.
As a good cop in a rotten world, Tony is a sympathetic lead that viewers can root for even when the going gets gross. The story also has the benefit of occurring in a kind of alternate universe where government conspiracies, strange abilities and over-the-top action can suspend a viewer's disbelief without the fuss of "world outside your window" seriousness.
WHY IT DOESN'T: While comics are an immensely powerful visual storytelling medium, readers can regulate their story intake in a way movie or television viewers can't — meaning the more disturbing scenes in "Chew" would have to be handled carefully onscreen. Spend too long or get too close for a cannibalistic chow down and the scene could feel less like a character's noble sacrifice and more like a stomach-churning horror movie moment.
The comic's slightly cartoony style helps take the edge off Chu's often-disturbing abilities, but a live action adaptation would have to walk a fine line. The right music choices could go a long way in fostering a light tone.
HOW TO DO IT: As an ongoing comic book series separated into relatively firm chapters, "Chew" seems well-suited for a television series. While a premium cable format would give the comic's storylines a bigger-budget chance at straight adaptation, a serialized network show with the right cast could expand on the title's secondary plots and bolster characterization. Either way, TV viewers would be enticed by a familiar concept with a crazy twist.
Casting "Lost" actor Ken Leung as Tony would really sell the show to viewers given his well-demonstrated affinity for sci-fi-with-a-sense-of-humor as the ghost-friendly Miles Straume. Leung's also showed off serious detective and horror chops in the recent "Saw V," making him an ideal candidate for cannibalism in the name of justice.
CLOSING ARGUMENT: Combining comedy, intrigue and action is a proven recipe for a decent law enforcement drama, but "Chew" sweetens the pot with the most original, if disgusting, twist a comic has cooked up in some time.
With scores of predictable police procedurals clogging the airwaves, it's time to change the menu with a delicious adventure crafted in the comics kitchen. Just "Chew" it Hollywood.
Would you dig into a "Chew" adaptation? Let us know what you think in the comment section or on Twitter!