The world of Man-Eaters is one that looks quite a lot like our own -- until it doesn't.
Years ago, a mutation in cat poop spread throughout society, with a very particular set of symptoms manifesting in teenage girls. Each month, teenage girls who menstruate transform into giant cats with a desire to kill, something that even years of government intervention and an elite task force can't entirely fix.
Whether you've been aware of Man-Eaters' concept for a while or you're going in relatively blind, the way things are established will hopefully be nothing short of clever and compelling. The debut issue does spend most of its time establishing that lore, introducing elements with just enough of a tease that should leave readers intrigued for more. All the while, the issue reveals the role that Maude -- our plucky, pussy hat-wearing protagonist -- plays in it. Even as that reveal is a bit easy to telegraph as the issue goes on, that doesn't stop it from landing with an emotional gut punch.
Man-Eaters hails from Chelsea Cain, whose Mockingbird run gained a sort of notoriety for daring viewers to ask about its feminist agenda. This series absolutely feels like a spiritual successor in that regard, dialing up the feminist sensibility in a lot of overt, but intriguing ways. It's certainly a creative choice, but it's one that is well-executed, and does so without talking down to the teenage girls who might be reading it. Considering the ongoing evolution of our culture's views on feminism, and the effort by young people to make change, it's absolutely safe to say that that kind of narrative will find an audience.
Even with a darker subject material, there's a unique sort of comfort that comes from reading Man-Eaters, in part thanks to the issue's visuals. Kate Niemczyk's art strikes a good balance between whimsically cartoon-y and beautifully lifelike, with her line work giving things a rightfully frenzied energy.
It's also worth noting the aesthetic flourishes that pop up throughout Man-Eaters, which evoke a more SFW version of the background gags frequently seen in Sex Criminals. Characters wear pun-related T-shirts and sing The Lion King songs while looking at a grisly murder, and scenes are littered with Bitch Planet merchandise and other feminist wares. It's such a uniquely-teenage outlook, one that helps free Man-Eaters from the usual visual trappings of a sci-fi parable.
Rachelle Rosenberg's colors help tie everything together, painting even the darker moments of the issue with eye-popping colors. Joe Caramagna's lettering feels like the icing on the cake, going from clever and childlike whimsy to genuine terror with ease. As a whole, the visual aesthetic of Man-Eaters nails the nuance of being a teenage girl -- facing the horrors of the world, but attempting to hang on to a sense of optimism in the process.
Man-Eaters is certainly a unique concept, one that takes the current "year of the angry woman" discourse and turns it on its head. The end result cleverly walks the line between horrific and hopeful, all while keeping a decidedly feminist edge. With genuinely enjoyable visuals and an intriguing storyline, there's quite a lot of promise within the world of Man-Eaters.
Published by Image Comics
On September 26, 2018
Written by Chelsea Cain
Art by Kate Niemczyk
Colors by Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters by Joe Caramagna