The Night Eaters Vol. 1: She Eats the Night
Marjorie Liu, writer; Sana Takeda, illustrator
Abrams ComicArts, 2022
The first of a trilogy of graphic novels by the creative team behind the Monstress series, The Night Eaters is about Chinese American twins, Milly and Billy, who are struggling to keep their restaurant afloat. They have the help of their parents, Ipo and Keon, who are in town for their annual visit. Having immigrated from Hong Kong before the twins were born the couple has seen a lot, much of which is revealed in the form of flashbacks showing their courtship and early married years.
Ipo is downright cranky to her kids, at one point blowing smoke from her ubiquitous cigarette in their faces, and Keon keeps trying to get her to lighten up. She is clearly obsessed with the rundown abandoned house across the street. It is on the market, but the realtor in charge is doubtful of it ever selling: it’s not only ramshackle but also downright creepy. She declares that she has been much too easy on her children, and demands that they spend the weekend with her working on the eyesore.
The work begins in the front yard, where a mysterious skeleton is uncovered, then a bit of investigation reveals that the house was a murder site. Once the trio enters the house mysterious things begin to happen. The kids are unable to leave, and are confronted by some kind of demon. Their mother is revealed as a powerful being who eats demons (hence the book’s title), and no one else in the family is really human, either. A lot of shocking revelations which explain some of the earlier action, as well as opening up possibilities for the next installment. Much of the action here is set in a contemporary urban world much less exotic than that of Monstress. Takeda proves adept at characterization before being given spooky settings and demons to illustrate.
It’s Lonely At The Centre Of The Earth
Zoe Thorogood, writer & illustrator
Image Comics, 2022
British cartoonist Zoe Thorogood subtitled this memoir of six months of her life “An auto-bio-graphic-novel.” Despite the success of her graphic novel The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott, she was feeling depressed and suicidal (“I’ve been considering stabbing myself in the neck with a sharp knife”). Suicidal thoughts are nothing new for her, but she is completely filled with self-loathing, and can’t avoid feeling that her professional calling almost requires her to be pathologically self-absorbed.
But in a month, she will be sent to the United States for her first comic convention as an invited guest. Surely that will make her happy, if she can just make it until then. As the days count down, she remembers things like her childhood interest in art and the London comic convention where she first made professional connections (colored by insecurity and self-doubt, as always). This description makes the story sound unbelievably dark and depressing, but even the darkest thoughts are offset by visual treats like cartoon representations of her as a child, her depression (a towering black figure with a blank cartoon face), and interpolations of the series “Rain” which she was illustrating at the time (at one point she reacts to imagined criticism from the main character by threatening to draw her cross-eyed in the next panel).
The time she spends with the American comics creator she met online is a whirlwind of mismatched feelings, a drug trip, meeting his children, and miraculously failing to contract a STD from him (a win!). She returns home feeling like she still doesn’t understand what her life is about. But she has a pile of comic pages–this book–so that’s something. In typical fashion she promises a great breakthrough understanding to close the narrative, which (Spoiler Alert) doesn’t actually happen.