Man-Eaters Volume 1 is a generational landmark in the comic book medium. It was not written and drawn like most comics and graphic novels. Rather, it was a directed and orchestrated collision of story, art, graphic design, poetry, biography, history, and unapologetic agenda. It grabs you from page one and smacks you right in the face. But you can’t help but go back and get smacked again until you finally get it.
The book tells the story of a teenage girl named Maude who lives in a world where young girls, upon the occurrence of menstruation, are likely to turn into giant, feral cats who lash out and kill people. Now, just think about that for a moment. In the world of sequels and remakes and sampling and historical reinvention, have you ever heard of anything like this? The plot is as original as it is raw and wrapped carefully in an acerbic wit that will make you say WTF while laughing at the same time.
In this world, the government has taken steps to insure that teenage girls stop menstruating to lessen the chance of them turning deadly. This includes providing girls-only water with estrogen and therefore boys-only water and other boys-only perks. The author reinforces this separation through brilliantly executed ad campaigns for products such as EstroBlock Protein, a supplement that lets men be the best they can be by adding muscle. This is a key component of the author’s brilliance: exaggeration and satire on the state of the patriarchy which, when looked at with a keen eye, really is not an exaggeration of our world at all but instead a reflection of it. And to make the medicine go down a little smoother, our author gives us a teaspoon of sugar in the form of sharply delivered wit. I am tempted to say humor, but the delivery is wonderfully spicy and has a snap to it that makes you feel like you just go burned . . .but it’s so well executed that you just jump back in for next zinger.
The artwork is multi-dimensional and, for me, completely shattered the rules of engagement of the comic book medium. If we look back at ground-breaking visual comics and graphic novels, a couple of highs and lows come to mind, such as David Mack’s legendary Kabuki and John Byrne’s poorly received Alpha Flight. This is different. This has more dimensions to it. It is a layered visual presentation that works in concert with the writing to wrap us in this fictional world and then bring it back to a personal level with asides such as poetry outtakes (poetry outtakes!) and fabulous vignettes of amazing women!
The heavy agenda is carefully balanced with a great, fast-moving narrative populated with characters that you can not help but love after three pages in. This is masterful storytelling. To hit you over the head with a message and still pull you into a truly character-driven narrative speaks to storytelling brilliance.
This comic book volume is technically perfect and generationally monumental. It is a medium smasher that takes the broken pieces and assembles them into something greater. It is topical, it is funny, it is visually engaging, it makes you think, it entertains you, it educates you, it corrects you, and it does all of this in a such a completely entertaining fashion that you will be clamoring for the next issue.
5 out of 5 stars
My head is spinning a bit.
Creative Team: Chelsea Kain (writer), Kate Niemczyk (artist)
Publisher: Image Comics
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