Review by Ian Keogh
Cannibal never entirely warmed up over a first volume that let us get to know the cast, but did so at a leisurely pace, without providing anyone we could love. That doesn’t seem so important during the course of this far faster paced conclusion. In volume one we took a brief tour around Willow Country, Florida, meeting some of the folk who live there, learning their ways, and seeing how this rural community coped with the idea of a virus that changed some people into cannibals. Almost everyone we met had a secret, some of them more likely to get you killed than others. The writing team of Brian Buccellato and Jennifer Young saved their biggest surprise for the final page of our first visit to Willow.
Among an ensemble cast, we spent the most time with Cash the last time round. He was getting ready to propose to Jolene before she disappeared, with her house wrecked. Every item of hers that’s turned up since has worried him more. We could set Cash to rights, as we know where Jolene is. Matias Bergara draws her right there on the opening page, a little worse for wear, but alive. The bad news is the cannibal virus has arrived in Willow.
In addition to being a better read, these chapters inform the opening half a little more, making us reinterpret what transmitted as intolerance and suspicion. Ethical considerations are also ramped up. Last time the virus was a hovering presence, and it’s now among the community. What will the reaction of the people be when it’s one of their own that’s afflicted? The heavy question’s given a tremendous boost by Bergara’s loose art, creating real people with natural reactions. Because we now know the main cast we’re not so easily distracted by background characters who look slightly similar.
The way Buccellato and Young pace Cannibal is very deliberate, and it’s not a story that benefits from being artificially split into two halves, when the slow pace of the first could prevent people bothering with the conclusion. A single volume presenting the entire story would have been preferable. There is a slight weakness regarding someone who’s lied from the start over some very serious matters still being believed about what in hindsight should transmit as just another lie to protect them, and the ending is horrible. It also reconfigures something we’ve seen before, which was slightly disturbing then, but is now terrifying. Cannibal is horror, so we want a shock ending, but this may not please everyone.