Author: Chelsea Cain
Art by Kate Niemczyk
Published: Image Comics
Believe it or not, I am not indeed Victor Von Doom fresh outta Latveria and now an internet blogger. The moniker I choose to put in the byline of my reviews is in fact simply a pen name. However, as clever as it may (or may not) be, there is some truth in the last portion of it. I am a “dude,” and as the Google-produced definition will tell you a dude is “a man; a guy (often as a form of address).” I’ve never really identified with my gender, however, nor do I identify with or as any other gender of which there are plenty. I don’t identify with or as my gender because I am a straight white man in a society geared towards straight white males. I don’t have to identify with my gender society identifies with my gender. I’ve never forced to identify, explain, justify, nor have I had to seek out examples of representation for one of my gender, race, and sexual orientation. I don’t have to worry about having an asterisk put on me in relation to my status in prementioned categories. I will simply be what I set out to be. No one will say I’m “pretty good for a (insert status here) writer.” I’ll also never know what it means to be a woman, gay, or a racial minority. I’ll never be able to identify with what non-straight white males are going through in a society controlled and geared for straight white males. This is just one of the reasons I think it’s important to read books like this. It’s more than just great writing, but it’s crucial for those of us with Male privilege to take in the experiences of those who society has marginalized. Giving attention and representation to the voices of those who aren’t the standard guidepost for society expands our own individual perspectives and elevates us in a way that benefits everyone. So no, I may have not been born with the ability to identify with the struggles and complexities that others outside of my gender, race, and sexual orientation go through, but thankfully because of books like this, and the good works of many others, I can be educated on such things and also thoroughly entertained in the process.
Writer Chelsea Cain has crafted an amazing premise, a world where adolescent females are susceptible to a mutated version of toxoplasmosis that causes them to transform into “Werepanthers.” This causes a knee jerk reaction in society and federal agencies are set up to hunt them down. Young girls are forced to flood their bodies with estrogen in an attempt to keep their bodies from menstruating. The fear is that if they menstruate they will become monsters who stalk the nights of their monthly cycle slaughtering men. The acts as a springboard to set up a world that illustrates how women are treated differently in society. This book is one of those examples of how fiction can create great allegories which hold up a mirror to society exposing toxic social norms. Then you have the characters, and this is really where Cain really shines. I love these characters. Our protagonist is Maude a young girl on the cusp of puberty. There are these vulnerable moments where your heart breaks for what shes’ going through, and these amazing triumphant moments, like when she doesn’t let the boys at school push her around. Her mother is a Veterinarian in charge of an elite task force in charge of keeping the northwest safe from those mutated by the toxoplasmosis, and her dad is a homicide detective. They all come with their own fully realized and lived in personalities. The dad is very warm and caring while trusting in Maudes’ capability to have autonomy. The mother is very accomplished in her field and carries all the confidence that comes with that. One of my favorite moments in the series so far is when we discover her idiosyncrasy of naming her pets, and the dog’s her team uses to hunt the cats, offbeat names. Something about knowing that she named one of the dogs Burt Reynolds just made me fall in love with this series so much more.
I’ve heard this book placed under the genre “Horror-Comedy,” and I suppose that could work. I feel it’s more of a Science Fiction/Horror book, but it makes sense that people are adding in Comedy because there’s well timed humor sprinkled in throughout the different scenes. You don’t feel bombarded with jokes though. I didn’t get a feeling that I was reading a comedy book. It seemed more subtle than that. Even the jokes make you think. For instance, the way that all the non directed dialogue or noises people make is replaced with the phrase “aweema-weh” a clear reference to the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” The really smart part though is the author’s use of the common American misinterpretation of what is actually “uyimbube,” which translates to “you’re a lion.” One could speculate that the author is commenting on modern western society by showing that we’ve allowed what sprang from the old world to be reinterpreted into something it was never meant to be. Then again it could just be a clever pop culture reference, either way, it’s one of many highly amusing and brilliant decisions made by Cain on this book. This book had me laughing at all the right places and then held me in suspense without warning. It’s just one of those books that succeed in whatever it attempts with flawless execution.
At the end of the day, the ultimate question of any review is “should I buy it?” Should I put my hard earned wages on the counter as a sacrifice for owning this book? Is it well written? Will I be entertained? Is it worth the hours I worked? I can confidently say that for me the answer is an overwhelming yes to all these questions. This title is perfectly executed from start to finish. The supplemental material is the best I’ve seen since “Bitch Planet,” By Kelly Sue Deconnick, or “The Watchmen” by Alan Moore. It helps to flesh out the world in a way that makes you think you’ve been rewarded with really awesome extra gifts. I made my own bottle of “Estro Pop” with a feeling like I have some kind of really cool collectible. So yeah, I highly recommend buying this book. This is groundbreaking work that anyone who loves comics should seek out. I would be surprised if this book wasn’t regarded decades from now as being one of the most important comics released in its era.
Overall: Five out of Five Latverian Francs
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