Patient zero discovered! Now that we know who brought the cannibal plague to the small Florida township of Willow, how will his friends handle this information?
Writer: Brian Buccellato, Jennifer Young
Artist: Matias Bergara
Publisher: Image Comics
In the 6th issue of Cannibal, Brian Buccellato and Jennifer Young’s survivalist horror saga, we connect a lot of dots. Not only do we learn how two members of the principal cast contracted the deadly plague that has ravaged the local population, we also see the efforts that the local sheriff puts into hiding the news of these attacks from the general population. It’s interesting to bring the political angle into the story, considering its contemporaries in the serialized horror genre tend to hew closer to the whole chaotic apocalypse cliche, but Cannibal has always been a series working to subvert common tropes even as it embraces them.
With the reveal of Danny’s backstory, we also lose his relatability as an entry-point character. I mean, finding out he had the Cannibal virus last issue effectively did that already, but this month removes any layer of sympathy his situation may’ve otherwise engendered in readers. While we may’ve felt empathetic for the way he was treated by the townsfolk for what felt like no reason at the time, now that we’ve seen that he did indeed murder his ex-wife (even if by accident) it’s harder to be on his side. This is particularly complicated by the manner of the accident, in which Danny smacked the woman off him mid-coitus and she broke her neck hitting the night stand. Now I get that she had bitten a considerable chunk out of his shoulder (which is a little rougher than most kinky couples get), and I get that some people’s sex lives can be involve some physical interaction that is considered “rough” to most. We’ve also seen Nicole injure Danny in the past, so there’s an argument to be made that they may get into some S&M stuff. Still, Danny didn’t know Nicole was infected when she bit him (as is implied by his reaction), he just smacked her off of him when she bit him in what looks to be an undue display of force.
It’s…uncomfortable to say the least.
It’s especially troubling when juxtaposed with the way Cash and Jolene interact when she returns and reveals that she too has the virus. Cash is patient and receptive, just happy that Jolene is alive. Even learning that she’s a cannibal just inspires concern. The same concern we see from Grady and Louise when they find Danny. Again, it makes those characters relatable and personable, distancing readers even further from the brutish acts from Danny. With the Sheriff protecting his son from exposure out of concern and Grady agreeing to show similar compassion for his friend, the brutish nature of Danny’s actions are more egregious.
From a technical standpoint, I do have some issue with the pacing of this issue. In the middle of the issue we get flashbacks from both Danny and Jolene to explain how they contracted the disease, which is all well and good. In Jolene’s flashback, however, they try to pull off this coy trick about who it was that bit her, but it’s only half-thought out. Yes, she doesn’t tell Cash that it was Danny until the final panel of the book, but we literally see Danny in the flashback. It’s half played as some shocking reveal, but it’s awkward since we already know the answer. I don’t know if it’s a scripting issue or an editing mishap, but it’s weird for a book that is typically very well plotted and paced.
That gripe aside, this is still a well rendered issue. The image of Jolene lingering in the porch light as she apprehensively approaches is a particularly strong visual, and Bergara has a great eye for facial expressions of grief, concern and fear. The dialogue is also strong, keeping the tone stern but honest, which is an important aspect of making the book stand out from its more dour contemporaries like The Walking Dead.
Overall, this is decent issue with a few points that provoke a considerable raise of the eyebrow. I’m not sure Danny is the POV character readers want to follow, but there are plenty of other characters that can serve as protagonist in the series.