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‘The Night Eaters: She Eats the Night’ (review)

Written by Marjorie Liu
Art by Sana Takeda
Published by Abrams ComicArts

 

The Night Eaters: She Eats the Night is the latest collaboration from writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda, the award-winning creators of Monstress.

Liu and Takeda blend fantasy and horror to explore the intergenerational dynamics of a Chinese American family in New York City. Published by Abrams ComicArts, the graphic novel is the first book of a planned trilogy.

Twins Milly and Billy Ting are Chinese American twenty-somethings struggling to keep their restaurant open during the Covid pandemic while treading water in their personal lives. Their parents, Ipo and Keon, are in town for an extended visit to lend a hand, but Ipo fears that their support over the years has made the twins soft and incapable of standing on their own.

To push her children toward self-reliance, Ipo drafts their aid in cleaning up a creepy abandoned house across the street. The family soon discovers that the neighborhood eyesore carries a dark history.

The rich characterization of the Ting family and their interpersonal dynamics drive the story.

Liu plants Ipo firmly at the center of things.

Portrayed in flashbacks as an independent, self-reliant young woman in Hong Kong, the older Ipo is equally strong willed but possessed of a dour, disappointed demeanor. She is a woman of few words whose primary means of expression is exhaling cigarette smoke in people’s faces. Her gruff exterior belies the fear that she has failed her children by pampering them and keeping her past hidden.

Her husband, Keon, is the perfect foil, carrying himself with a confident, easy-going charm. Keon’s soft touch serves as the bridge between the eternally disapproving Ipo and the twins who consistently disappoint her expectations.

Milly and Billy are capable children struggling with adulthood. Both were straight A students and college graduates who find themselves in a rut. As their restaurant flounders in the pandemic economy, Billy spends his free time playing games on his computer while Milly hooks up with an ex-boyfriend who has clearly moved on.

The interplay between the four touches upon conflicts common to many families. Liu also manages to organically portray the inter-generational tension unique to the immigrant experience.

Sana Takeda departs from the sharp lines and crisp details that made her work on Monstress so evocative, but the change is no less effective in setting the tone and pace of The Night Eaters.

Here, Takeda employs a looser hand and a more raw style. The panel borders are rough. Backgrounds are rendered in expressionist cross hatching. A muted watercolor palette creates a gauzy, haunted haze. The overall effect permeates the story with an atmosphere of creeping unease as Takeda smoothly steers Liu’s narrative from scenes of everyday life to supernatural dread.

The Night Eaters: She Eats the Night works as a stand-alone story while offering a promising start this refreshing new horror fantasy cycle.

 

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