EAT THE RICH, ISSUES #1-4
Writer: Sarah Gailey
Illustrator: Pius Bak
Colorist: Roman Titov
Letterer: Cardinal Rae
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
WHAT IS IT?
A five-issue horror series that follows a young woman’s first visit to her wealthy boyfriend’s seemingly idyllic beachside hometown and family. But while the large service staff and formalwear are all intimidating, it’s the food that’s truly hard to swallow.
It’s Meet The Parents with the one-percenter cast of Succession, the tension-filled claustrophobia of Get Out, and meals periodically curated by Hannibal Lecter.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Joey is spending the summer with her boyfriend Astor’s family in the exclusive beachside town of Crestfall Bluffs, but she’s nervous. She’s never been around this class of people. Astor is even worse off: he nearly has a panic attack as they enter the town’s limits. What isn’t Astor telling Joey?
As soon as Joey steps foot onto the grounds of the estate, it’s clear she’s a fish out of water. Astor’s family isn’t just fabulously wealthy; they reside in a different world with its own dress code, language and set of rules. Joey sticks out right away: she talks too much to “the Help,” she wears the wrong dresses (“They’re just wearing what you wear to pier parties at the start of the season.”), and she doesn’t understand where everyone at the party keeps disappearing to.
Joey quickly finds out how Astor’s family and the other residents of Crestfall Bluffs take care of “the Help.” Generous lifelong service contracts end with retirement parties that take bloody, horrific turns. But is the shock enough to scare Joey away from this life of privilege? Can she successfully assimilate into Astor’s family? Or will her friendship with the family nanny, Petal, steer her down a different path?
Writer Sarah Gailey picked the perfect title for their cannibalistic horror story about income inequality and the disastrous state of modern capitalism. The phrase “eat the rich” is originally attributed to 18th-century French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who wrote: “When the people shall have no more to eat, they will eat the rich!”
Artist Pius Bak nails the character and costume designs. Astor is a beefy, broad-shouldered, impeccably groomed Ken doll with slicked-back hair and expensive suits. Joey on the other hand, one of the comic's only grounded and compassionate characters, is first introduced in a T-shirt with hair messily done up in a binder clip.
Roman Titov colors the book with a vibrant palette of mostly solid colors, which creates a clean and clear feel to the storytelling. The coloring often pushes settings and unimportant characters into background washes of reds or blues, which keeps the spotlight on Joey and her emotional arc through every panel.
Letterer Cardinal Rae uses yellow caption boxes with italicized mostly lowercase letters to create a quiet and authentic voice for Joey. The captions often overlay and interrupt other characters' word balloons creating an alive and in-the-moment feel to the protagonist’s thoughts and anxieties.
Gailey is a skilled storyteller that quickly hooks the reader to the mystery of Crestfall Bluff’s dark cannibalistic history with shocking, issue-ending cliffhangers. Unanswered questions are dangled like bait, continuously luring the reader along for another nibble.
Bak’s facial expressions are the narrative's guiding torch, as the reader follows along, every moment of Astor’s deep unspoken discomfort and Joey’s furrowed brows and skepticism peel back the curtains on this world.
This is not an excessively gory book, so when blood and violence do appear, it really pops off the page thanks to emphatic contrast in coloring by Titov. In one panel, a background framed image of servers holding a bloody piece of meat on a platter eerily foreshadowing the violence to come.
The creative team pairs horror with humor exceedingly well. In another bit of foreshadowing, Astor’s infant brother Cartwright uncovers the bottom of a human jaw while playing on the beach. Cartwright then proceeds to stick part of the jaw into his mouth and suck on it, like a baby would with a plastic toy, as his nanny Petal holds him.
Another high-water mark in this series occurs when Joey’s thoughts transform into enormous words that stretch across the length of panels and pages. In contrast to Joey’s usually quiet and introspective inner voice, the sporadic use of giant text exponentially magnifies her feelings and anxieties. It's utilized for expert comic relief when [spoiler alert] Joey takes her first bite of a human steak. Fork in her mouth and expression nearly blank except for a tinge of surprise, the top of the page reads in giant letters: “IT TASTED OKAY.”
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Content Warning: murder, blood, and repeated consumption of human flesh appear in every issue.
One of the most compelling mysteries of the book is Astor’s silence about his family’s diet. Why doesn’t he warn Joey? Is he so traumatized by his childhood that he represses his experiences to the point of denying their existence? However, this plot point is also the most difficult to rationalize. Why would Joey not force this conversation earlier? It’s not until the final pages of issue 4 that Joey confronts Astor about his family’s cannibalism and [spoiler alert] she only confronts him because she’s in immediate mortal danger. Perhaps the final issue of the series will resolve the mystery behind Astor’s confounding silence?
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Eat The Rich is a timely and topical exploration of the increasingly large chasm between the poor and the wealthy in this country and a particularly scathing indictment of capitalism. Characters with chronic illnesses can only afford proper healthcare by signing up for a life of servitude for wealthy families and a contract kicker that requires them to be barbarically murdered and turned into gourmet chow for their employers upon retirement. The allegory here is especially compelling because it’s so close to reality: people die every day in the United States because they can't afford proper medical treatment. According to a 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health, nearly 45,000 deaths annually were due to a lack of health insurance.
But don’t shy away from this book if you’re not into scrutinizing the downfall of an economic and political system. Eat The Rich is also an extremely fun comic orchestrated by a highly skilled creative team that wastes zero time getting to the meat of the story. Gailey and company comfortably oscillate between horror, comedy and pulse-pounding thrills to deliver an exciting page-turner that will leave you racing to pick up the series conclusion, due out on December 22nd.
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All Eat The Rich characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Sarah Gailey, Pius Bak, or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED