Man-Eaters #1, the new Image Comics series from the whole creative team behind Marvel’s Mockingbird series, is set in a world where young women are mutating into feral big cats and mauling men to death. The series is centered on Maude, a p---y hat-wearing young woman who daydreams about tampon-themed heroes smashing personifications of patriarchy while her father works as a homicide detective. If it wasn’t clear enough already, the series is nothing if not topical, but does it handle the social commentary well while telling a good story?
Let’s get one thing clear: writer Chelsea Cain is laying it on thick with the script in this one. Readers looking for more subtlety in their social commentary may not be thirsty for the cup of tea Man-Eaters is serving, but I wholeheartedly think they should give it a try. As far as the first issue goes, Cain’s script manages to execute her premise with a healthy balance of catharsis and gravity. Women morphing into man-mauling cats? Awesome. But Cain also treats the idea seriously, exploring how today’s Americans might react to such a thing both on the scale of special task forces, and parents turning on their daughters in fear.
However, there’s definitely humor to be found in the script, whether from the realistic dialogue or outrageous nature of the mutations and how they came to be, but the script also works to convey how women’s bodies are policed and made other without their control. As with every series, it remains to be seen how these ideas will develop as the series progresses, but the debut issue establishes a balance between light and heavy that bodes well for the issues to come.
Kate Niemczyk covers pencils and inks with Stella Greenvoss providing additional interior art. The character and creature renderings throughout the issue are clean and consistent with backgrounds full of little details like cat patterns on blankets or posters of other Image Comics series on the wall. I particularly love the use of mixed media throughout the issue, like the spattering of red liquid to simulate blood that covered the space behind the panels on one page. Other details like Photoshopped picture of a real human face or a torn page in the issue’s back matter give the comic added textures and visual flair beyond the well-executed pencils and inks.
The issue also makes use of really dynamic layouts with some pages eschewing panels completely and instead presenting the story through spreads where the action still progresses as if there were panels without the physical lines drawn. For example, there’s a series of renderings of Maude’s dad as he opens her door, says goodbye on his way to work, then closes the door. Instead of six different panels with her dad and the door at various stages of movement, the renderings are drawn next to each other with no panel borders in a way that occupies the space with movement in a way that feels fresh. Joe Caramagna’s lettering adds to the dynamic feeling of the issue with feral cat roars that fly all over the panel and punctuation signs appearing here and there to convey feelings without the use of word balloons.
If there’s anything I want more of from the series so far, it’s even more time to get to know Maude specifically and connect with her character. The world of Man-Eaters is one that necessitates a lot of exposition which is how most of the time in this issue is spent. That being said, Man-Eaters #1 is a debut strong enough that even if the overt social commentary doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, it’s worth giving a try. Each member of the creative team is balancing the tone, gravitas, and mood expertly, which is a narrow tightrope to walk with a premise this fantastical.