An absurd premise descends into mediocrity, but it was better than zombies fighting vampires.
Source: I Was the Cat
Despite any criticism I may sling, I mostly enjoyed reading I Was the Cat. I am also crazy and I am convinced that the entire book is a loose metaphor for the absurdity of corporate personhood. But enough about me, let’s talk about the book.
The biggest problem with I Was the Cat as a graphic novel is that the overall tone contrasts starkly with the contents, leaving me uncertain about the intended the audience.
On the one hand, this book feels like its premise is a mishmash of everything the internet loves; there is a cat (who talks), revisionist history, undermining of religious pantheons, references to the Sherlock Holmes villain Moriarty, a conversation about how even women would totally date Audrey Hepburn, and fear mongering about food additives, just to name a few elements that feel like Reddit fanservice. In the background there are innuendo laden conversations, like a woman on her cell phone with conspicuous breasts who wants all of her friends to delete those pictures that were “only meant for Nita.” There is a lot of murder. There is some sex. I wouldn’t call any of this gratuitous except… I Was the Cat is being marketed by Oni Press with a “Youth” rating.
Paul Tobin’s writing is very clear and simple. Somehow, through word choice and grammar, he has given I Was the Cat the feel of a youth or all ages book. Ben Dewey’s art is well laid out, consistent, and colorful, but not too bright. I would say that I Was the Cat looks like a television show with even lighting and pragmatic but not exceptional visuals. Even the principal premise of the graphic novel, a talking cat who tries to conquer the world Pinky and the Brain style seems aimed squarely at the younger crowd.
Superficially, this is a book I might glance through and recommend to a 10 year old. Now, I may be underestimating kids these days, but I think only the most precocious 10 year olds would appreciate commentary about Josephine embarrassing Napoleon into the role of cuckold, ruminations on the terrors of war, or massive conspiracies to gradually poison the food supply. Honestly, with the glut of vampire zombie detective stories out there, I think that very few adult comic book readers are interested in the veiled satire I saw in I Was the Cat.
Really, there is a lot of heavy stuff in I Was the Cat. I wish I could give away the first chapter of this book as propaganda for the #yesallwomen campaign. The main character, Allison, heads out to meet the mysterious man who has hired her to write his memoirs. Her female friend, Reggie, enumerates all of the practical reasons why Allison shouldn’t accept the job, but then gets carried away and extrapolates to the conclusion that the man is a serial killer (he's actually a cat, because that's what the book is about!). When Allison leaves for her first appointment, Reggie waits in the coffee shop across the street and insists on regular updates via text messaging. This is life for women, and I applaud Tobin for including this realistic, if unflattering, touch.
Would I recommend I Was the Cat? I’m not really sure. Thematically, it would be too mature or unappealing for children, but it lacks the complexity to really hit home with adults. I doubt that teenagers could look past the saccharine premise and get through the first chapter. Honestly, I would recommend that anyone who is interested try to preview a chapter before laying down cash.