By Michael Kazmierczak
Created by Jennifer Young and Brian Buccellato (Sons of the Devil) for Image Comics, Cannibal is set in the nineties after a devastating hurricane sweeps through the South, unearthing ancient mosquitos who infect the populace with a century-old strain of Yellow Fever. The treatment,apropos to the title, leaves the affected hungering for human flesh.
Unlike other anthropophagous ghouls brought into being by viruses carried by mosquitos and particularly those with Will Smith starring in the lead role of the film adaptation), Young & Buccellato’s cannibals are fully cognizant of their affliction, which manifests itself more like an addiction than an all-consuming primal compulsion. The cannibals can function as normal andproductive members of society outside the times which they are overpowered by their hunger. At times, they are even able to show a modicum of self-control in matters of choosing a victim or time to strike, and most of all: remorse for their gruesome actions. Something like iZOMBIE
meets Interview with the Vampire.
Whereas the average set-up with an epidemic would fall into the trope of societal collapse, this self-described “anti-apocalypse story” presents humanity as inadvertently resilient and in the words Brian Buccellato, “too stubborn to give up their way of life.” And the method of rural resistance is perhaps as true in South Florida as it would be up in Mohawk Valley, their “stubborn” grit no doubt informed by J. Young’s own experience growing up in a similarly-small town in the Everglades: heaping doses of suspicion and communitarianism. Using ink and brushwork, artist Matías Bergara depicts the grubby Floridian town of Willow nested deep in the swamps of the Everglades, heretofore untouched by the medically-induced cannibalism.
The first issue opens on Hog’s Bar and Grill, a local watering hole run by Roy Hansen and hisson Cash, and scene of the town’s first cannibal attack. After their due diligence informing the Law, the local men decide to form a mob to hunt down the perpetrator, an action tacitly sanctioned by the grizzled sheriff. But a friend of Roy’s older son Grady drifts into town the night of the murder at Hog’s and within days of his appearance, other residents begin to go missing – including Cash’s longtime girlfriend Jolene.
Over the next three issues, the townsfolk of Willow begin to slip further into paranoia and we come to learn of the dark secrets they’ve hidden. The first volume of Cannibal has as many twists and turns as a backwater dirt road with no plans of stopping. To summarize any further would be giving too much away! Issue 5 launches the second arc/volume on May 3rd, and if you aren’t caught up, Volume One hits stores March 9th as a trade paperback.
“I’ve got a femur, and the only prescription is more Cannibal!” – Christopher Walken