Review by Frank Plowright
For all the advances society has made in the past fifty years, menstruation has remained pretty well the same off-limits taboo subject it’s always been, something women are conditioned to conceal and not speak about. It’s just as well Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk are delightfully off-message. Their Man-Eaters begins with a society that seems relatively normal. Maude lives at home with her police detective father, sharing roughly the same interests as any twelve year old, but as the opening chapter continues it’s revealed her world is very different. A disease transmitted by cats has affected girls about to enter puberty, and in rare cases it triggers a transformation into a killer were-cat. Society’s solution is compulsory hormone treatment via the water supply, but every now and then someone slips through, and a whole range of options are activated, primary among them the Strategic Cat Apprehension Team.
It’s a wild world and it’s intricately detailed, with Cain and Niemczyk taking a scrapbook approach to storytelling in order to convey it. We read what Maude reads, articles, text books and medical advice, and see what she sees in terms of ads, public information posters and TV broadcasts. It’s a novel approach, and a lot of these are very funny, but they’re also overloaded into a four chapter graphic novel when the fourth is nothing but. It’s a sardonic response to the idea of men using every excuse to suppress women, but it really shortchanges as a graphic novel, and to some extent it squanders the premise by padding out so much of what we’ve already been told more concisely.
By the end of the book we know Maude could have problems, we know why that’s the case, and we have a broad view of what’s changed, but we could have had so much more. The verdict’s still out, and volume 2 follows, but let’s hope a good premise with a point to make hasn’t already run out of steam.