Man-Eaters #8 // Review
Typically when a mystery/suspense serial dives a bit too deeply into the substance of the mystery, the creative team will pull back a bit and turn the story to something lighter and more tangential to the central plot. Chelsea Cain and Lia Miternique’s latest chapter of ManEaters is far from typical. When THIS series decides to lighten the tension of the plot a bit, it takes a complete departure from a comic book format altogether and launches itself into 32 pages of fully-playable micro games. What might normally be extremely frustrating to the overall pacing of an ongoing serial, turns out to be a really enjoyable excursion into the world of the comic book from a skewed angle.
The issue is set-up as an instructional textbook for middle-schoolers in the world of ManEaters. The games introduced in the book explore the values of a contemporary America that is very much like the “real world.” As explored in earlier issues, a world in which menstruation has the unwanted consequence of turning some young women into vicious, bloodthirsty were-panthers turns out to be a lot like the “real world.” The world beyond the page reflects into a very strange world not entirely unlike our own.
Cain’s latest installment of ManEaters was inspired by #Feminsim--a nano-game anthology that she refers to in the text as “brilliant, provocative and devastatingly funny.” Cain does a pretty good job herself in an issue featuring a surprising array of different games for middle-schoolers set in the world of the series. The centerpiece of the issue is a fully playable card menstruation card game in which the player with the most werepanther cards wins. The issue also includes suggestions for physical games of skill, role-playing and turn-based combat. It’s all centered around a pair of middle-school girls who had toyed with the idea of deviating from the prescribed precautions against pantheism. It’s a funny, fiercely clever addition to the series. In Watchmen, Alan Moore tried a variety of different texts that added to the narrative of the story from a variety of different angles. In this issue of ManEaters, Cain does a brilliant job of filling out the world of the comic book from a completely different angle.
Designer Lia Miternique has developed a very sophisticated, contemporary look to the textbook/game book. As with at least one previous magazine-spoof issue in the series, the look of the issue feels compellingly authentic to contemporary magazine layout. Details in the issue add a clever depth to the visual package as well. Icons, textures and basic elements of design lend a sharp wit to the total presentation. Sharp attention to detail is apparent even on the backs of the game cards. On one level, they look like traditional playing card backs. Look closely and there are a couple of panther heads in there and I’m sure a LOT of other visual subtle references. Every page seems bursting with that kind of detail.
There’s a lot going on in the eighth issue of ManEaters. In addition to developing the world of the series, it’s a brilliantly non-traditional, little one-shot that tells the story of a couple of characters. “Jennifer” and “Mandy” serve as character archetypes in the games. At issue’s end, a pair of articles tell the stories of the characters behind these archetypes. The vastly different outcomes of two girls looking to rebel serves to increase the tension of the middle school girl at the center of the series. Now that a little bit more about the world in which the characters live, the danger she’s falling into is given that much more depth.