The Night Eaters: She Eats the Night
The Night Eaters: She Eats the Night is the first in a new trilogy of horror graphic novels. Chinese American twins Milly and Billy are going to learn some horrifying secrets when their mother Ipo enlists them to help clean the house next door.
The Night Eaters is written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda, and lettered by Chris Dickey.
- Written by Marjorie Liu
- Illustrated by Sana Takeda
- Lettered by Chris Dickey
The Night Eaters: She Eats the Night was published on October 11, 2022 by Abrams Comicarts.
The Night Eaters: She Eats the Night Story
The Night Eaters: She Eats the Night is, at the core of it, a story about family and the relationships within them. Is there horror? Of course there is, but even there I would argue that any of the horror of nightmarish monstrosities or creepy dolls (which this story does have) comes second to that of the familial. The fear that we won’t live up to family expectations, that we are not truly loved, that they reflect the worst parts of ourselves. This is the horror that is likely relatable to so many of us, and so elegantly underpins everything else within the story.
Milly and Billy feel somewhat isolated from their parents, that there is a distance or even wall between them. Their father is supportive, but even his support seems to be tempered by the cold nature of their mother Ipo. The story does put us alongside the twins as we watch their struggles both in family and life, all while under the judgemental and cold gaze of their mother. Not only does this help strengthen our emotional investment in the familial conflict but also helps establish a strong reference for the mystery that surrounds their mother and the house next door.
The pacing of the mystery, and by extension the horror, is a real strong point of the story to me. Things only truly ramp up about half way through the story, when we finally meet the horror elements lurking behind it all. The pacing is largely held by growing hints at the truth between both Ipo and the house next door, but more-so by the very human characters and the humour they bring.
Milly and Billy bring a bit of levity to the events, but never anything that undercuts the horror or the family drama. If anything their very human and relatable reactions to the things going on around them only enhance the other elements as it helps make it all feel the more real and grounded. Some may perhaps not take well to the few referential comments scattered through, but they are very limited and I doubt would ruin the overall story even for those who outright hate referential humour.
This is one of those stories that I feel many will come for the horror (or, understandably, for the incredible talent involved) but will stay because of how well it touches on familial problems and struggles, and how relatable the characters within it will be for most people. Even if their personal experience varies wildly (I do hope nobody has a family exactly like the one involved here) I imagine many will find something in here that reflects either their own situation or a situation they know of. For me that is when horror is at its best, when it reflects and comments on real experiences, and The Night Eaters definitely does that.
The Night Eaters: She Eats the Night Art
Anyone familiar with Sana Takeda’s art won’t be surprised to hear how good it continues to be here in The Night Eaters. The fact remains that it just is. This is one of those cases where I can’t imagine the story done with different art, it just matches the narrative so well that they become largely inseparable. Takeda’s art so elegantly reflects the story as it unfolds; the humanity of the characters, the eeriness of the horror.
Looking back through the pages to write this I find myself noticing certain details that speak so much on their own, even if I can’t be certain in their intent. The twins are often depicted as together and with more distance from either of their parents, which strongly reflects the struggles in the relationship throughout the story. There’s an especially distinct distance with their mother Ipo, who seems to more often watch from a distance while they do other things.
The lighting throughout is really quite stunning, and not something I’d expect from a story like this. The usage of light rays and luminance are something I wouldn’t often see from comic art but it is so effective in no only adding a beautiful effect to the pages but also using shadows in truly evocative and powerful ways, shadows to highlight the different elements of the story.
When the story does go full tilt horror Takeda doesn’t hold back on it, delivering truly unsettling and at times downright disturbing imagery. Perhaps it speaks about me, but I do find that at times the art becomes so unsettling that it’s almost beautiful. Especially when the full horror is contrasted immediately with simple, quieter scenes around it.
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