Menstrual Mayhem: Maneaters #1 by Chelsea Cain

Written by Chelsea Cain
Line Art by Kate Niemczyk
Color Art by Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Published by Image

Ah, puberty. It's not a fun time in any young woman's life, but in the world of Chelsea Cain and company's new series Maneaters, the arrival of shark week leads to a lot more than just ruined underwear. A rash of killings by giant cats leads to the discovery that menstruation causes teenage girls to transform into werecats through the power of mutated toxoplasmosis virus. (If this seems scientifically implausible, you should really just relax.)

The first issue focuses on Maude, a typical Portland teen with a homicide detective father. Although cat attacks have dwindled to nearly nothing due to menses-suppressing birth control being put in the water supply, every so often one slips through. Within the first few pages of the comic, this seems to have happened again, and Maude's dad is forced to call in the dwindling special forces designed to deal with the girls-turned-werecats, the Strategic Cat Apprehension Team (a.k.a. S.C.A.T.). The rest of the issue deals with both the history and present-day reality of this menstrual mayhem.

This installment is mostly expository, but despite that manages to be both comedic and right on the nose in terms of making a statement about society's reaction to menstruation even in our current werecat-free world. Little background details like a protest sign asking "What Bleeds for Seven Days and Doesn't Die?" link Maneaters with our misogynistic present, where periods are still too often shrouded in mystery and a Victorian Era-like reticence to discuss biological reality. (Why else do ads for tampons and pads show blue liquid as a stand-in for blood, or more often, fail to show the products they're selling at all?) And what better animal for budding women to become than cats, a pet associated with witches and crazy cat ladies? The metaphor isn't exactly subtle, but this isn't a subtle comic, it's a get-in-your-face riot grrrl kind of statement.

Kate Niemczyk's art features a varied template of panel sizes and the occasional splash page, a flow that helps keep the story moving. The figures of the teenage girls themselves are also varied in terms of body shape and color, showing that it's not just one type of woman that's a victim of both the werecat transformation and the resulting anti-female state oppression, but everyone who gets a visit from Aunt Flo. Colorist Rachelle Rosenberg transitions easily between the bright, cheery colors of Maude's bedroom and the dark, sinister look of the anti-werecat protests. The art plays with the form at times, such as when bloodstains drift beyond the confines of the panels. I also laughed at the fake ads and flyers scattered throughout the comic, such as a "cat attack incident report" and a full-page ad for certified estrogen-free bottled water for males. If you hurry, you can probably get one of the variant glitter covers, which show three sparkly paws raised and ready for revolt.

Maneaters #1 is a super-funny, yet very political read that's perfect for any woman or menstruation-tolerating man. Now that the background material is out of the way, I'm really interested in seeing where this goes next, especially after the wham line that comes on the very last page of the comic. The world may have tried to "end the cycle," but pussy grabs back.