Writer: Chelsea Cain
Artist: Kate Niemczyk
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Cover artist: Lia Miternique
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99 US
Before you venture further into this review, I have to note that my lack of familiarity with the subject matter of this comic book before I read it added immensely to my enjoyment of it. While I endeavor here to steer clear of spoilers whenever possible, my comments will no doubt detract from the writer’s efforts to keep the reader in the dark for the first half of the issue, and they’ll likely offer some hints at the twist later in the story. If you wish to avoid such information, just know that this comic is recommended, and come back and read what I have to say after you’ve had a chance to enjoy the issue for yourself.
Novelist and columnist Chelsea Cain’s brief foray into comics was noteworthy for how strongly her feminist themes resonated, both with a receptive audience and with a small but vocal opposition determined to ostracize women and minorities as lead characters and creators in genre fiction. Cain’s return to comics should generate a fair bit of attention, and for good reason. She delivers a playful bit of social satire here, building on feminist themes and exposing how a male-oriented society has transformed a completely natural and necessary bit of biology into a taboo subject. Women’s periods have long been off limits in many respects, to the point that many men have been completely in the dark about menstruation (including me, truth be told, for far too long). Here, Cain treats the notion of demonizing girls’ first periods quite literally, and the concept offers great potential for social commentary and a much-needed lampooning of outdated thinking.
Maude’s a fairly typical kid, and she and her single-parent father are quite close. He’s a homicide detective, who’s always grumbling about federal authorities horning in on his cases, sweeping in and taking over, even though he, his partner and the other officers on his underfunded force in Portland, Oregon, are capable professionals. But the world is a different place now, when the onset of menstruation turned normal girls into deadly threats, and government programs to curb the problem have eclipsed other public safety programs.
I’m not familiar with Kate Niemczyk’s past work, but I plan on keeping an eye out for name in the future. I really enjoyed her artistry here. At times, it reminded me of Kris Anka’s work on Runaways, and at others, of Steve (Superior Foes of Spider-Man, The Fix) Lieber’s style. I was particularly taken with the sense of design and versatility she demonstrates in the first few pages of the issue. Her presentation of Cain’s description of Maude’s dad was notably striking; it really brought the seemingly stoic and haunted vision of a homicide cop down to earth, presenting him as a regular guy. Writer and artist team perfectly for the two-page apartment-complex spread, making for some nice moments of comedy.
I also appreciated the softer tones that colorist Rachelle Rosenberg brings to the book. The colors and line art keep the overall tone of the story rather light, in keeping with the satirical, tongue-in-cheek qualities of the premise.
The notion of Strategic Cat Apprehension Teams immediately put me in mind of The Simpsons classic Bear Patrol episode, serving as a commentary on government overreactions and excesses to the detriment of study and determination of cause. S.C.A.T. is a political and paramilitary solution to a biological development. It’s easily comparable to the criminalization of drug addiction and mental illness. Studies have shown there are more cost-effective solutions to the crimes that arise from those social ills, but the illusion of security provided through the courts and criminal codes is just an easier sell.
Ultimately, it’s the clear impressions of Maude and her dad that serve as the strong foundation for this story. They’re such likeable, relatable characters, and that we’ll get to explore such an outlandish biological development through the eyes of these grounded, everyday people seems like an excellent way to approach this subject matter and Cain’s criticisms of outdated social norms. 8/10
Note: This comic book is slated for release Sept. 26.