The Other Sickness in Cannibal 8

by Patrick Ehlers

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

I think we can all agree that cannibals are bad. Right? They feast on the flesh of human beings, their survival requires murder of innocent people — that’s pretty cut and dried. But there’s a second sickness that’s infested the town of Willow, Florida, and it’s proving just as deadly. Issue 8 of Cannibal focuses on those infected with affection for a cannibal. Symptoms include: viewing some people as “garbage people,” poor judgement, and prolonged cases of severe, obvious dishonesty.

The most obvious carrier of this second sickness is Sheriff Earl, whose son, Daryl, has been eating people for years. Earl keeps his son employed at the police station and gracefully deflects inquiries about his well-being with a folksy “same as always.” Of course, writers Brian Buccellato and Jennifer Young’s words are masterfully supported by artist Matías Bergara. Bergara starts to creep encroaching shadows onto the page as the deliberate mistruths start to tumble out of these characters’ mouths. Sometimes that means casting characters in silhouette, sometimes it means putting a large obstruction in the foreground, and sometimes it means letting the camera drift away from the action. Here’ my favorite example of Bergara leaning in to the obscuration of truth:

That last panel is basically all blackness. But it’s not any character lie that Bergara is emphasizing here, but the lie that Young and Buccellato are telling us. “We need to go warn them.” That sounds like they’re going to be helpful right? Before the issue is over, Jolene will be gunned down in bed.

This retroactively codes all the shadows, all the dark spaces on the page, as omens of poor decision-making and deceit. When Cash and Jo try to find someone for her to munch on, the woods are bathed in oversized shadows.

What ends up being the most heartbreaking part of this secondary sickness is that both Cash and Earl’s actions are achingly relatable. They are, after all, only protecting loved ones who objectively need help. It’s hard to fault someone for having the disease of “caring.”

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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