Man-Eaters #7 // Review
A middle school girl is having a talk with her father when her mother arrives. Sounds like a perfectly normal situation and it probably WOULD be if it weren’t for the fact that it was taking place in the strange dystopian world of Man-Eaters. The all-woman creative team helmed by writer Chelsea Cain and artist Kate Niemczyk enters its seventh issue with another rapturously quirky little bit of mystery and intrigue set in a world where women not properly overloaded with estrogen occasionally turn into a giant, dangerous panthers. The brilliantly funny comedy finds more cleverly inventive off-center narrative as the mystery deepens.
The issue is seen from the perspective of the central Middle schooler, Maude. While a previous issue featured a distinctive look into her perceptions of her dad, this issue plays host to Maude’s understanding of her mother. She’s the central figure in a chapter that opens with an in-depth heart-to-heart discussion between Maude and her father. A mysterious girl sits next to the two of them. Evidently, she’s a friend of Maude’s who happens to be wearing a unicorn head mask. As one might expect from such a situation, things are about to get weird.
Cain’s weird, off-center story delivery includes the usual strange departure from traditional comic book plot delivery. Maude’s perception of her mother comes in the form of a cleverly-designed internal blueprint in the style of the one previously seen describing her father. She enters a room, and Maude sees her as an anthropomorphized tampon wearing a superhero cape. In the context of this story, that visual delivers a profound amount of characterization of both Maude AND her mother in a very tight, little bit of symbolism. Every visual in the issue seems to have multiple layers of meaning that form a pleasantly disorienting constellation of plot development.
Niemczyk does terrific things with the delivery of the narrative from the confines of a few panels. The fact that the entire issue takes place in Maude’s bedroom is kind of a minor detail given all that happens there. Not many artists would have a terribly easy time confining all of the action in a single issue to a single bedroom, but Niemczyk gives the limited space a sense of emotional depth that goes way beyond the space. Her mastery of the physical violence that eventually lands in the bedroom is handled with a very astute understanding of movement. An entire combat sequence takes the place of three pages, and though very little is shown, Niemczyk renders a compelling action sequence that serves as a suitable climax to the issue.
Cain and Niemczyk continue to bring something genuinely compelling to comics with a breath of fresh air to the medium. Their unique framing and pacing of a mystery story open endless possibilities for the nearly 100-year-old comic book medium that make it feel new again. As the series progresses, the long-running issues of plot development in an unfolding mystery will eventually emerge, but for now, it’s fun to watch Cain, Niemczyk and company play with an inventively novel idea in such a whimsically deft way.