‘Eat The Rich’ sticks the landing with its topical horror story centered around income/healthcare/etc inequality by giving the protagonist and allies as well as the audience a satisfying and in a way cathartic ending. Every bit of the ominous and moody feeling given by the story and artwork is kicked into high gear for this issue, giving us a story that is perfect for the times we live in.
Sometimes the title of a story is something straightforward as the name of a character, place, or thing from the story. Other times it’s a phrase that is something more thematic or metaphorical regarding something in the story. At first glance and then reading the first four issues one could assume that the title of Boom Studios’ Eat The Rich is in reference to the often-seen rallying cry attached to discussions of income disparity and protesting the obscene wealth often held by out of touch or deplorable individuals.
Eat The Rich #5 though gives that title a much more horrifying yet satisfying literal meaning.
There is something truly cathartic in the realm of horror, and in other genres too, where the protagonist that was on the receiving end of the horror can turn it back around and become the thing that their tormentors now fear. Through four issues Sarah Gailey, Pius Bak, Roman Titov, and Cardinal Rae introduced us to a cast of characters and turned the elitist but idyllic seeming Crestfall Bluffs into a place of horror as they ratcheted up the tension.
We watched as Joey Dorsey was confronted by the rich’s tradition regarding the contracts for their help that ends with them killing and eating said help, struggled with coming to accept this tradition, only to rebel and try to stop it when faced with the murder of someone before her eyes. As Astor Hadley finally proposes to Joey at this moment, she is taken for a loop and then knocked out, leading to Astor giving her an ultimatum: she can marry him and accept the lifestyle and live or she can die.
Mirroring our real world in some ways, the issue perfectly reveals that the flesh situation extends far beyond Crestfall Bluffs which is just where these rich cannibals gather for the summer. It must extend because consuming the flesh leaves them with an all-consuming hunger. As usual the rich have an entire hidden power system where their members are part of all the industries around the world and secret facilities facilitate shipping flesh to them wherever they are.
Gailey presents a lot of exposition/explanation in the first half of this issue, but it never feels like too much or a case of rushing to fill in the gaps for a final issue. It all comes out quite naturally as the tension continues to grow, as we the audience are privy to the knowledge that Joey is slowly regaining use of her limbs for a potential escape. It’s the second half where things really get a turbo boost, as Petal and Joey finally fully acknowledge what is between them and the two of them realize perfectly and poetically sate their hunger (the help were made to eat flesh too to keep them hungry and there) through Astor and those like him.
Thus, the moment where the title of this book becomes quite literal.
Overall, this has been a very intriguing series that has heavily leaned into the overall horrors of the injustices of our societal systems, with the added cannibal horror bits to take it a bit further. The rich use the poor for their own means while pretending to be “helpful,” preying upon the fact that the systems they put in place leave others in precarious places where they are in constant need. There comes a point where the oppressed, who usually far outnumber their oppressors, will break and return the pain upon their oppressors.
Bak, Titov, and Rae have perfectly created a mood that has become more and more ominous with every single issue. In most of the others, we see a ton of the home and the rest of Crestfall Bluffs, where the shadows and ominous mood contends withs some of the brightness of the world. Here though most of the story is contained to one room, and they maximize the ways that the mood is kept dark and terrifying.
There are tons of pinks and purples along with the black shadows that really bring the mood down to a dark/night-like situation that keeps one on edge. The paneling work done here breaks things up into tons of close-ups from Astor talking or Joey listening/trying to move various limbs or digits, or even innocuous things like Astor’s drinking glass or him tossing the engagement ring at her. All the borders between panels are kept white, and they add a bit of lightness to the page surrounding the darker panels.
There is tons of detail here as usual and thanks to the closeups we get a definite sense of the emotions in the moment, as the facial and bodywork are just spot on. Even the double paged spread with the montage of how far this web of horror goes is kept in a way where the colors are dulled and heavily ominous, showcasing just how dark the world is in a way because of people like them. As with the last issue it’s very clear how there is a brightness that creeps back into the panels once Joey and Petal are on the same pages together, because of their connection and feelings for one another and how they brighten the dark world for one another. Even once they become the ones doling out the horror, things are still bright around them in a way because they are different in the how and whys of their engaging in this horror and they feel justified.
Rae’s work on lettering has been beyond stellar across this series, and especially here. Not only is the dialogue work great, making small changes here or there for the various characters bubbles or caption boxes, but the way that SFX is used in this book is so unique to other books. Sure, there are various points where it’s the actual sound effects of an action, as usual, each with their own personality, but there are others that take it to the next level. Often Joey’s thoughts in a way burst right out of her head and appear as large SFX-like words around here, or later when Joey and Petal have their first kiss covered in blood there is a stylized ‘Delicious’ floating around their chins.
These are things that could be contained to caption boxes as usual, but it adds so much more to have them burst out like that. It allows those thoughts or feelings to loom over everything else and be very clear at what is felt in that moment. It’s another visual flair that makes this book really stand out, and I truly hope it’s something that we get to see elsewhere from Rae or even others adopting this sort of style down the line.
Also whether it was on the lettering or penciling side, the detail of the little Z’s appearing in the syringe of whatever Kitty Hadley used to knock out Joey was a great fun little detail. Sure we would know that it knocked her out, but cartoon-like Z’s in the syringe and then around Joey’s head was just great.
This whole team is one that I hope to either see working on something else together or appearing in a lot more books in 2022 and beyond because they nailed it with this series. A tight, fun, engaging, unique, and pertinent five issues.
Eat The Rich #5 is now on sale in print and digitally from Boom Studios.