Man-Eaters #5 // Review
Chelsea Cain continues to explore a witty and deeply layered contemporary horror in the fifth installment of Man-Eaters. A husband and wife investigate a string of murders from a lycanthropic panther in Washington State. In a world where such attacks are as common as the strange mutation of toxoplasmosis that brings them about, it’s possible that the attacks in question may be the result of their own daughter’s possible transformations. Kate Niemczyk draws the issue with inks by Elise McCall. Rachelle Rosenberg delivers the colors.
The action moves back and forth between the husband and wife investigating the attacks and scenes of their daughter Maude from five months prior to the attacks. The investigation plays out like a strange CSI-style procedural with husband working an underfunded police department and wife working for S.C.A.T.--a government organization set-up to investigate panther-woman attacks. Mystery continues as Maude bristles against a world which sees potential danger in every single girl.
Cain’s clever, subtle, multi-layered dystopian social satire in another chapter which further explores the psycho-political awakening of Maude. She’s questioning authority in small ways. She has been reprimanded for drinking water that hasn’t been treated with the estrogen in order to prevent the hormonal interaction with the mutated toxoplasmosis that causes the lycanthrope outbreaks. Cain’s wit is woven through the dialogue and into a constellation of symbolism involving cats, blood and so much more. Every scene seems to exist in a few different levels: drama delivers hints into the backgrounds of the main ensemble of characters while making a statement about society as reflected in a dystopia that bears an uncanny resemblance to a comically amplified version of the world on this side of the panels.
There’s a very clever wit about the layout of an issue peppered with smart, little bits of quirky delivery. Inner monologue in a girl’s restroom is written on a ribbon of toilet paper. When a friend of Maude’s disappears in that restroom, her mind drifts into her “inner dad voice” and there’s a full-page image of her dad delivering a couple of hundred words of advice, many of which have absolutely nothing to do with the disappearance of a her friend. He’s standing there on a white background casually in limbo as she panics. Elsewhere husband and wife are investigation another mauling in a lab that turns out to be a part of a ridiculously large mobile crime lab on wheels. There’s a two-page spread detailing the layout of the massive semi truck complete with computer room, office, bunk room and helipad.
Niemczyk provides a very clean world of simple lines to the page with a witty sense of pacing. Maude’s emotions are muted and mired in everything that rushes through the mind of a girl in middle school. There’s a casual tenderness seen in the faces and movements of husband and wife acting in a professional manner during the investigation. McCall’s inking is very patient and uniform, which is fine as much of the action takes place in places with natural light at mid-day or institutional fluorescent lighting. The uniformity of line allows Rosenberg plenty of room to work with a full range of different colors for a very naturalistic aesthetic.
The depth of what Cain and company are exploring here continues to be deeply engrossing. Cain maintains the mystery of the attacks while delivering deeper insight into the ensemble AND exploring a world that is all too much like our own. With its clever mix of humor, drama and horror Man-Eaters is quite deliciously unlike anything else on the rack right now.