The Eaters
Medium: comic
Year: 1995
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Dean Ormston
Format: 56 pages
Website category: Comics
Review date: 25 August 2021
It's a Vertigo one-shot about cannibals. Adam, Helen, Cassandra and Rocky Quill are an all-American family who live in the South and are surreptitiously helping to depopulate it. Cassandra has a difficult love life, but she doesn't go so far as not to eat when her parents serve her boyfriends up for dinner. "You were a little heavy-handed with the gruyere but other than that he was superb."
It's also a comedy. It's possible that I'd been dimly aware of this at one point, but I'd certainly forgotten all about it on finding this comic in my collection. I read it. I laughed. It's uncomfortable laughter, yes, but it makes the comic a lot better than I'd previously thought.
Firstly, they're good folks. They eat people, sure, but Dad in particular is patriotic, believes in helping the poor and will philosophise about America. He argues that the Puritan fathers and the early Christians were "Eaters" as he calls them. They even disapprove of murder. "What kind of animals do you think we are?" "Have you lost utter control over your senses? That was dinner. We're not killers. We're not like all those murdering sons of sows out there dragging our country's estimation through the sewer pipe. No sir."
There's also gruesomely funny dialogue.
The supporting cast are what really mark this as a comedy. Some of them aren't even remotely funny and are clearly on a dead-end road to a horrible end, but look at people like the politically correct cop or Shay the very bad politician. His frozen grimace on p44 is hysterical, as is his shameless scumbag dialogue.
"There's a difference, Shay. For one thing, while he was in power Barry did actually create some jobs and houses for some very poor people. Those people liked him for that."
"Christ, the sneaky bastard."
The ending isn't what everyone would have chosen. The bloodbath, yeah, sure, but that scumbag getting off scot free? Well, it's Milligan's choice and another shade of darkness in a very very black comedy.
It's easy to get a bit overwhelmed by this story. The comedy is unambiguous, e.g. the kills and near-kills, but there's also enough horror that it took me two readings to see past it. It's not pleasant. (Dean Ormston's art is part of that, being dark, a bit ugly and horror-orientated. I've always particularly liked his painted work for Fleetway.) I laughed quite a lot, but I was recoiling. It's good, though. I'm still a Peter Milligan fan.