Considering: Chew and the Inevitability of Endings

Endings are weird. They’re incredibly common, but they freak me out. Whenever I finish a book, I always feel distressed and empty, despite my brain being a little bit fuller (apart from that time I read Russell Brand’s autobiography, lost a couple brain cells on that one). At some point, your game of Pac-Man is going to end, no matter how well you dodge the ghosts, because the kill screen on level 256 is always waiting in the wings. Not to be too deep, but get this: Life ends.

Comics are a respite from endings. Some heroes have been doing the same thing for over fifty years and they aren’t slowing down. Single issues end, but you always know that in two weeks Spiderman will swing back, Batman will punch another goon in the chest and Hulk will smash yet again. It’s an infinite, comforting cycle.

Which is why Chew scares me. Detective Tony Chu is a Cibopath, meaning he can tell where something comes from by eating it. He could eat an apple and get a feeling of what tree it came from, what pesticides were used and when it was harvested. Or he could eat a burger and feel something completely different and completely awful. Or, he could take a bite out of a person, as he so often is force to when solving crimes. Cibopathy is incredibly rare in the Chew universe (or Chewniverse (or not)), he’s not the only one, and it’s certainly not the only weird thing around. Vampires, alien fruit and the scariest rooster you’ve ever seen all pile up in front of Tony, and he’s not too happy about any of it.

I love Chew. The story is wild, the jokes are sharp as a tiger’s incisor and the art hits a great balance between cartoon craziness and slasher movie style gore. It’s amazing, but it’s going to end. The writer, John Layman, has the whole story planned out, to the point where they were able to release issue #27 out of order, after issue #18. In issue #23, there’s a flash forward to one panel from #60, the final issue of Chew. While that’s not exactly round the corner, it should be about three years to reach the end, it will eventually happen and make me feel like I’ve lost a friend or a pet or a really nice pair of shoes.

It’s not a bad thing. Having an actual plan means that the narrative has been considered. Chew doesn’t suffer from the Lost affliction, where it seemed as if the writers were making it up as they went along, despite assuring us that everything was plotted from the start. Pacing would also have been laboured over, ensuring that the story moves along smoothly instead of slowly flailing around like so many never-ending Captain America arcs do. Chew never lingers too long on one sub plot. I could easily describe it as snappy, if I was the kind of asshole that uses the word snappy to describe things.

Some things just need to end. The Simpsons needs to end. CSI, in all its forms, needs to end. Chew needs to end, but for different reasons. It’s too good to survive forever. I’m not happy about it, but least Chew won’t outstay its welcome. I suppose it’s better to be prepared for that end instead of it coming out of nowhere.

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40 responses to “Considering: Chew and the Inevitability of Endings

  1. Outstanding post! Congrats on the Freshly Pressed.

  2. I never really got into Chew. Maybe I’ll have to give it another look. You can read the first issue for free courtesy of Comixology.

  3. So true! Some stories I’ve read are good precisely because it had a good ending – though I wish they won’t end, but it would have then spoiled the story. 🙂 Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! 😀

  4. shinobiswordsman

    “Do you hear that, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of…inevitability.” That’s what I immediately thought of reading your post. Congrats on being freshly pressed.

  5. You must have liked “Babylon 5” on TV then. All 5 years’ major story arcs were planned out from the beginning, and they had flash-forwards to future episodes and future seasons often. I don’t do comic books, but Chu sounds interesting. I will look for it.

  6. I really like the way you think. I will follow your blog.

  7. I completely agree with how endings leave you. A good ending (meaning a book where it has what the author feels is a solid ending) leaves me wanting more, so when I read a book that is supposed to leave the author looking for answers, I literally am besides myself with stress. I thought I was the only one who became that uptight about the end of the books!

  8. This is in my want-to-reads. This post just made me want to go to the bookstore as soon as possible.

  9. So true. I’ve not see this particular comic, but grew up with DC and Marvel etc. I do find it comforting that I can turn on the TV and the Avengers are still there. It is nothing but pure escapism – from travail into the trival. I gave up reading fiction during high school because the books had a last page. This was well before the idea of the young teen series of books that has captured the marketplace. The idea of dipping back into a familiar book didn’t occur to me. After all, that’s what you are talking about the never ending story of Batman. We are effectively dipping back into a familiar narrative because it hasn’t officially ended. So – bring on an end to CSI, NCIS and all the others who have overstayed their storyline. We can always dip back into a video or download if we need to.

    Thanks for a great post.

    • Comic readers are incredibly lucky in that respect. I hope you get back in to fiction! There are so many authors who have built universes spanning over multiple books that don’t seem to have a last sentence that isn’t “To be continued in…” Thank you so much!

  10. I get that distressed feeling when I finish a book too. In some ways its kind of like a break up; I can’t just pick up another book straight away, it feels like I need space haha.

  11. Well said! I have been reading Chew since my comic book store guy told me I might like it. Shows how much he knows. I friggin’ love it! As for endings, I’ve been trying to make this point to my friends and relatives for years. At least once a month my mom laments the loss of Monk from USA, and I tell her it’s better it went off when we still had fond feelings toward it and it didn’t jade our memories of the first few seasons.
    It’s no secret that the writer and author Chew both love throwing us little homages to Lost. I would love to have Chew end while I thought it was the best thing in the universe, not peter out into irrelevancy like Lost. Or Alias. Or the X-Files (though that still is my favorite show of all time).
    Networks need to read your post and take a page (har har) from comics like Chew and Y the Last Man, from our cancelled wonders like Firefly, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and Jericho, and from BBC programs that aren’t Doctor Who; stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Not a beginning, pre-middle, first middle, middle, second middle, interlude, mid-interlude, miderlude, third middle, last middle, post-middle, and an ending that didn’t really answer any questions. (LOOKIN’ AT YOU, CUSE AND LINDELOF).

    • Tell your mum that I understand her pain, I loved Monk. But also tell her that I agree with you too! It had to end before it became like the last season of House. If only the networks would make such simply structured shows. I think most start off meaning well, like Lost and X-Files, but they get carried away and just don’t know when to stop going back to the buffet table. Thanks for reading and thinking about it!

    • I love your jab at Lindelof and Cuse. Speaking of them, my sister made up a fun birthday card/comic for me in 2010 which included something she called “The Lost Revenge.” It worked for me and made me laugh. I gave it a page on my blog. In a drop down header menu, it’s called “My Sister’s ‘Lost’ Birthday Card to Me.” She’s a good sister, and she’s funny.

  12. hahah smithy you crazy writer guy

  13. I haven’t finished reading Run by Anne Patchett. I must’ve started it over a year ago, but I love her prose and a couple of the characters so much I just don’t want to ‘break up’ with it yet. One can only read something the first time once.

    I liked this post. Glad to end my evening on a fun note.

    • I’m sorry you’re having trouble letting go, but I assure you, wounds will heal. Make the first time you finish reading it a celebration of the story and the characters! Thank you so much for reading!

  14. You’re right! A lot things do need to end! What sucks though is that I don’t want to see some of them end. I hate finishing a series of books, I always get that sad feeling you get when you finish the last page. It’s like having a break up. What’s worse is I’m in the habit of coming back to the same series again later to put myself through it all again. Never read Chew though… Good post

  15. Always better to be prepared for the ending! But in some cases it just doesn’t happen! Chew sounds like a laugh!

    Definitely agree with the Simpsons and CSI having to end – there is such a thing as a saturation point that i think some writers go so far beyond the damage is irreparable!

    Great post and congrats on the Fresh Press! 😀

  16. Hey Sam,

    You don’t need to approve this comment; just thought I’d point out a small typo (I make them all the time; my wife notices them and it drives me crazy): third paragraph, “He could take eat an apple and …” I think you could remove the ‘take’…
    I’ve read Chew, and enjoyed it; congrats on getting freshly pressed!

    • Thanks so much! I’m pretty good at making typos too. Not lucky enough to have a wife to point them out, but I’m very lucky that awesome people read my stuff sometimes and help me out. Thanks!

  17. I can see your point. Rising Stars was a perfect, 24-issue book. I read the Omnivore of Chew and thought it was quite unique, if not for me. But I’m still hoping Layman knocks it out of the park when he takes over writing Detective Comics. 😀

  18. Witty. Very witty. Excellent blog, I really enjoyed your insight. Keep up the good work. Please visit http://www.mynutritioninsight.com for information and disease prevention and healthy food and drink recipes.

  19. Yeah, agreed, it is far better to time your comics end instead of others doing it for you.
    I enjoy creating cartoons (see my blog), each with an end that happens virtually straight after the beginning.

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