Man-Eaters Vol: 1 Review - It's like X-Men Meets Teen Wolf For Girls
Updated: Jun 18, 2020
• Image Comics (Publisher) • Get it now From Green Brain Comics
I first heard of Chelsea Cain's Maneaters via #Comicsgate. Around the time of the release, there were videos floating around reviewing the book and ripping it to shreds for being awful, gross and pushing feminist propaganda. I considered joining in on the act and picking the book up for some of that easy, sweet, and topical clickbait.
I decided against reviewing the title because I just didn't have an interest in investing time in the series. The preview images and covers gave me an Ewww vibe I simply couldn't get past at the time
The videos came and went and for whatever reason, the book and creator kept coming under fire, specifically from the trans community. This got pretty ugly and after months of back and forth, Chelsea said screw it and decided to leave Twitter.
At this point, I was intrigued. I'd never heard of a project that was scorned by mainstream audiences and #comicsgate. I decided to check out the series and had my Local Comic Shop add Man-Eaters to my pull list.
I had to know if it was bad as everyone was making it out to be. The story focuses on Maude, an awkward young girl on the verge of adolescence. Unfortunately, in this setting young girls have a host of problems more serious than acne or getting attention from pimply-faced boys.
In this particular setting Toxoplasmosis X exists. Toxoplasmosis exists in the real world but in the setting of Man-Eaters, it interacts with the XY chromosome. The result of the hormonal interactions causes some girls to transform into panther-like creatures and eat people, hence the title.
One of the tell-tale signs of danger is menstruation. In fact, the fear is so real that at the first sign of menstrual blood kids are sent to be treated and possibly quarantined.
On top of this, chemicals are pumped into the water supply to prevent menstruation altogether, further demonizing the natural progression of puberty in young girls.
The setting is horrifying and would be even darker if Chelsea had had not chosen a cheeky tone for the series.
I'm not gonna come in and shill and say that the story of Man-Eaters is a masterpiece. What I will say is that the book, at least the first volume is one of the most unique ideas I've ever seen in comics and should be applauded for swinging for the fences.
Once you get past the initial shock and unapologetic feminist perspective the story is actually pretty good.
The jabs at the patriarchy do seem out of place considering most of them come from a 12-year-old. Do 12-year-olds regardless of gender feel oppressed by anyone outside of their parents?
The characters are all likable and relatable. Maude's parents are divorced. They both work in law enforcement and are investigating an increasing number of Cat Attacks. Neither realize that a potentially dangerous situation is developing right underneath their noses.
Dad was called out as being a stereotypical soyboy by some critics, I disagree. My marriage is often shaky, I I'm over 30 and still collect comics, action figures and drive a Yellow Fiat SUV. Objectively I'm in pretty much the same situation as Maude's father. I even have a 13-year-old daughter that recently started having regular periods.
Please Pray for Me.
The art direction from Kate and Rachelle is also cool throughout the volume and perfectly captures the tone Chelsea was going for. As mentioned earlier if you change a few lines of dialogue here and there and bring in an artist like Greg Capullo this is a full-on horror story, but it works nevertheless.
There isn't a lot of action in this volume. Chelsea substitutes action with a focus on developing interpersonal relationships between characters and setting up a constant air of danger in the background.
What elevates the book for me is the auxiliary material. Throughout the book, there are a collection of poems, ads, and jokes that are cute, funny and at times are inspiring.
I also loved that the story isn't caping in the hope of appealing to a male demographic. This comes across very quickly in the writing. At one point there is an entire page that painstakingly details how to use a tampon. Initially, I have completely grossed the hell out but I thought of what my wife, daughter, sisters' and mother go through monthly and stuck with it. The story just grew on me as it went on.
There are also a series of parody ads throughout the Volume. Issue #4 is full of them and they are all disturbingly hilarious. The advertisements reminded me of the parody ads in classic films such as Robocop and Starship Troopers. They also belie an undercurrent that strong women are to be feared.
The elephant in the room is the outrage surrounding this project. The trans community on Twitter came out in full force to demonize Man-Eaters and Chelsea Cain over her lack of inclusiveness within this series.
On a purely biological level, they simply don't fit into "This" story. This a young woman's coming of age story. Forcing the issue or playing identity politics here would only diminish the narrative. It's pretty clear this is a personal story and Chelsea has a clear direction in mind.
The Trans experience is not the same as a young girl's experience and we need to stop ignoring the obvious. There are elements here that we can all relate to. The feeling of alienation. The feeling of awkwardness during puberty and the finding of one's voice in dealing with overbearing parents.
That's what's important here. I hope to one day read a story that captures the transgendered coming of age experience. This story simply isn't it.
Overall there is a lot to unpack in the setting and I enjoyed Man-Eaters vol: 1. I'll be picking up Vol: 2 in a few weeks and seeing how the series develops.
If the blatant digs at the patriarchy weren't in the comic I would have given the book a perfect score. The setting itself makes the point clear so the obvious jabs are unnecessary.
On that note, the story has some minor issues but the concept is unique and its heart is in the right place. The art is solid and the presentation is excellent.
I recommend Man-Eaters despite initially being grossed out. I read the book and immediately gave it to my daughter who also loved it. It's a good comic, saying anything else is being disingenuous.
I've read bad books, terrible books (Heroes in Crisis), this ain't it chief.