Comics: Man-Eaters Volume 1 (TPB)

What is better than a story involving giant black cats devouring the men of this world? As it turns out, said cats actually just being shape-shifting teenage girls who just hit puberty makes Man-Eaters better than anything I could have expected. The first issue of Man-Eaters was released in September of 2018 and my local comic book shop owner set it aside for me without me prompting, knowing both myself and the premise. However, because my review comics keep me relatively busy, my own personal stack has taken a bit of a backseat lately. That said, when I learned that Image Comics had sent us a copy of the trade paperback which contains the first four issues, I was beyond ecstatic. Not only was I in no way disappointed by the digital copy of the trade paperback, I was truly blown away and my expectations were exceeded by this smart, cheeky tale of puberty, girl power and the dangers of a patriarchal society.

I am extremely glad that I did not skip page five of this book. This page gives short bios of the creative team behind Man-Eaters and absolutely should not be missed. While it is both wonderful and impressive to see that this was a primarily female driven team, my favorite part was the young women that contributed their talents to this piece.  Stella Greenvoss and Eliza Fantastic Mohan are both eight graders who lent their skills to the creation of this book. Stella contributed some of the interior art and Eliza helped with some writing portions in the third and fourth issue. Eliza’s bio includes feminism, Buffy and Superwholock references, so it’s safe to say she is one cool chick. On top of that, thirteen year old Emily Powell wrote various fun, cat-related haikus on some of the pages. 

There is something really special about a book clearly designed for young women specifically that utilizes young women and their talents within the book and it’s something I have not seen before in the industry. The creator and writer of Man-Eaters, Chelsea Cain has received public recognition for both her books and comics in the past. No doubt another critical hit, the concept of Man-Eaters is utterly brilliant I do believe will contribute to even more success for Cain. So much thought went into the concept and you can see that she understands the world we live in and is absolutely not afraid to shake things up with her tongue-in-cheek wit. Offering many ideas that play on how society treats both genders currently, you will find a many nods to current events and political issues. While this may discourage some readers, I think that the audience that this was designed for will absolutely love the style and find the content completely relatable. 

Maude, the young teenage protagonist, is quirky, charming and full of attitude. If I had a child of my own, Maude is the type of kid I would hope to raise. Personally, I found myself giggling to myself the entire time I was reading it, as it expressed so many things I have joked around with my friends about before. We live in a society where there still many men, who are completely terrified of what could happen if women gain more positions of power and continue the fight for equality. The idea of trying to keep women down and subservient has been a societal issue for generations. Sure, we are not vicious, blood thirsty cats who are out on the prowl seeking men to devour, but hell, aren’t powerful women treated that way sometimes? We have opinions and we are too confrontational, we speak our minds loudly and proudly and we are bitches, we swear and suddenly we are not feminine. The idea behind all of that boils down to the fact that though women are obviously not feline killing machines, we certainly do threaten weak-minded people out there and exposing that in a way that is relatable and super appropriate for a young audience is, in my book `100% necessary. Because this is entirely spoiler free I really can’t reference any of my favorite parts without giving something away, but I will just say, this is one of the best things I have read all year and have already recommended it to several friends that have young daughters.

Katie Niemczyk provided the art for Man-Eaters and her eye for detail truly brings this wonderful story to life. Though Maude is certainly the focal point of the story, with her funky style and “pussy” hat, the rest of the characters do not feel like they are in any way afterthoughts. The mixed media art style throughout the book makes every single page so complex and stimulating that I think I spent as much time examining the art in the pages as I did reading the written word. There are special nods to nerd culture, such as Maude’s love for comics and the T.A.R.D.I.S. in the home’s bathroom that also really add to the overall quirkiness of the book. It felt like a book written by nerdy girls FOR nerdy girls. 

Though I did truly love everything that was done with the art in this book, I have to say that the menstruation scene was my absolute favorite part. There are several ways a book can handle a young woman starting her period. It can be casually mentioned so it is briefly touched on but with no detail, because periods just aren’t something that people want to talk about. We should be grossed out by them, ashamed of them, know they happen but not talk about them happening, right? But then we have a second option. We have the option that shows that periods are normal. A teenager starting her period is nothing to be ashamed nor should it simply be referenced in embarrassment in a book designed for teenagers. Periods are confusing and stressful and hell, I think trying to figure out how to use a tampon for the first time is a struggle for everyone. I sure as hell read the box and looked at the diagram but nobody really talks about that sort of stuff. I am so glad Man-Eaters went with the second option. Though society is getting better with that sort of thing, how many of us still feel uncomfortable when purchasing tampons from a pharmacy or make sure to take our purse with us to the bathroom at a restaurant as we certainly would never get up from a table holding a tampon? We get to see a teenage girl experiencing all of this for the first time, and we get to see it in detail. This is the type of thing young girls need to see; their bodies and bodily functions being normalized, and the way that this theme was captured in the art just was so empowering.

The first Man-Eaters trade paperback will be released on February 27th, following their issue five becoming available on January 30th. This title is one I look forward to continuing to both receive and review and I have a feeling it will be one I will continue to recommend. In an industry that has been dominated with tales designed more for a male audience, I am so happy to see comics like Man-Eaters making an appearance and I believe it will be really successful. There is something so wonderful and special about seeing a book about a teenager girl that is relatable enough to touch on issues most teenagers deal with, but to still have enough silliness and fantasy to make it extremely fun and enjoyable. Man-Eaters combines poignant truth and colorful fantasy and weaves a tale that its audience is sure to fall in love with.

--Rachel Rutherford