"Cannibal: Volume 1" Trade Paperback Review
Written by Angry Scholar
Published by Image Comics
Originally published as CANNIBAL #1-#5
Written by Brian Buccellato and Jennifer Young
Illustrated by Matias Bergara
Colored by Brian Buccellato
2016, 104 pages
Trade Paperback released on March 8th, 2017
Cannibal is about a Southern town dealing with an outbreak of a virus that makes people eat other people. In this first volume, as you might expect, we learn the key players: brothers Grady and Cash, their father who runs a seedy Everglades bar, the local sheriff. Willow, Florida, is a well-realized, believable Deep South town, and everything about the book, from the booze-bottle-label conceit of the cover art to the warm colors of the inks, reflects the sticky heat of the swamps. It’s gritty but still cartoonish (in the best way), and the art alone is enough to make the book worth a read.
The story, such as it is, is interesting. Cash’s girlfriend Jolene disappears and he launches a one-man search for her; meanwhile, Grady’s friend Danny is on the lam, suspected of murdering his ex-wife. Both of them wind up in a jail cell together, Danny suspected of being a cannibal, Cash for having beaten the crap out of his girlfriend’s stalker. On the surface it has a lot in common with a certain other comic about people in the Deep South struggling with a communicable disease that makes people eat other people; like that ongoing series, it’s really the non-people-eating-people who are interesting. (In fairness to that other series, I’ve only seen the show, and I stopped watching like three seasons ago.)
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The difference, so far, is that the eponymous cannibals aren’t reanimated corpses: they’re otherwise normal people who occasionally have to eat other humans. It isn’t made entirely clear in the first volume just why this is so, aside from a brief mention of “getting overtaken by the fever.” Otherwise, though, the cannibals are normal, rational people, indistinguishable from the uninfected. In this sense, Cannibal feels more like a vampire story, with the monsters trying to conceal their identity but eventually outed by the taint that compels them to feed. The fact that they aren’t rotting corpses but normal people with a terrible urge promises lots of drama down the line, and it will be interesting to see how interactions between the infected and normal people play out.
It’s hard to feel much of a connection with any of the characters just yet, as none have really had time to develop beyond their initial roles as proud, fiercely loyal, quick to fight, slightly stereotypical Southerners. It is initially hard, too, to accept another zombie-ish storyline. (I know it’s not zombies, but it’s still a virus that makes people eat people. That’s super close.) The art is solid, though, and the writing is interesting enough to keep the pages turning.