Title: Man-Eaters #1
Writer: Chelsea Cain
Artist: Kate Niemczyk
Cover: Lia Miternique
Publication Date: September 26, 2018
Publisher’s Summary: “Eisner-nominated and New York Times bestselling thriller writer CHELSEA CAIN returns to comics with a new ONGOING SERIES! A mutation in Toxoplasmosis causes menstruating women to turn into ferocious killer wildcats—easily provoked and extremely dangerous. As panic spreads and paranoia takes root, the fate of the world rides on the shoulders of one twelve-year-old girl. Part Cat People, part The Handmaid’s Tale, MAN-EATERS will have everyone talking. From the creative team behind the Eisner-nominated series Mockingbird: writer CHELSEA CAIN, artist KATE NIEMCZYK, colorist RACHELLE ROSENBERG, letterer JOE CARAMAGNA, and joined by LIA MITERNIQUE, KATIE LANE, and STELLA GREENVOSS. This September… the cat wants in.”
We begin our journey into the world of Man-Eaters #1 with an adolescent girl in her bedroom, goofing around, pretty typical stuff until you realize her imaginary villain is Mr. Misogyny and her imaginary hero’s tagline is “The Personal is Political.” But maybe she’s just a really feminist teen. Not so much. Quickly, we realize that not all is right in the world of Man-Eaters. There is a special task called S.C.A.T., who are the overreaching government agency in charge of managing and containing large, killer cats. But things start to get a bit dystopian as we learn that these cats aren’t your run-of-the-mill tiger or leopard. In fact, they are young girls infected by a mutated form of toxoplasmosis, called toxoplasmosis-x, which is a typical feline disease. And while killer cat attacks have been minimal lately, it appears that there is a killer cat out there right now, and she’s already claimed her first victim.
Wow! When I sat down to read Man Eaters #1, I truly had no idea the kind of frank, political discussion I was about to embark on, but I’m happy it happened. Chelsea Cain introduces the issues from panel one, with a clever meta-cartoon from the protagonist’s own imagination, involving the evil patriarchy being destroyed by a tampon hero. Now, I’m going to stop right here and say if feminist issues aren’t your thing, or if talk of menstruation, feminine hygiene products, and the ever elusive female reproductive organs gets you a bit squeamish, then you should move right along (though I think it will be worth it for you to stick it out, because Cain really has crafted a poignant comic). But I think that is also what Cain is getting at, the taboo of womanhood, and how the unknown or superstitions seriously impact women. The fact that the young girls in this series turn into killer cats is not lost to me, or I’m guess most readers, as the comic works out the multiple connotations in our society for the word pussy, yeah, I said it. What Cain does is force her readers to confront the current state of women, and she does this with overt frankness. Cain is unapologetic in her parallels to today’s political and social climate, they are unmistakable, profound, and totally kick-ass!
Sprinkled into the issue are posters of Image’s own Bitch Planet and girls wearing shirts with phrases like “Girls Can Do Anything,” “Fight like a Girl,” and “Feminist AF.” These are not coincidental, Cain and Niemczyk are making direct commentary on our current political and social climate. Through art and script the two delve into social views on PMS in ways I’ve never seen in any kind of media or pop culture. There are issues of autonomy, a lack of scientific understanding, and a genuine distrust of these girls, all issues relevant to today. And it’s all played out in a mildly pastel, detailed world.
The Bottom Line:
This comic is a kind of battlecry for every woman who has ever been asked, “is it that time of the month?” Chelsea Cain may have just had the frankest conversation about women’s issues that I have ever heard, and this is only issue #1! Rarely have current political, social, and personal issues surrounding women been so boldly and bluntly presented. I think Chelsea Cain just unleashed a comic of whoop ass on the patriarchy, and it’s truly amazing.