Paul Tobin (W)
Benjamin Dewey (A)
On the roulette wheel of random comics review, sometimes you win and sometimes your prize is playing the game. I had not previously heard of I Was the Cat before it was randomly assigned to me to review. I started reading with a blank slate and an open mind. I didn’t think it would hurt that I have two cats.
For this review, I read the first chapter. The story thus far has a very basic premise: Burma, a talking cat, hires journalist Allison Breaking to write his memoir. It’s set in London, in a world like our own, where talking cats are not normal. Additionally, they do have nine lives. Burma is on his eighth life, and, feeling his mortality, wants his memoir written.
There are two positives to this chapter: there are two main female characters, Allison and her friend Reggie, and one of them is a person of color. They are featured in the opening pages, and as a female reader I was curious to see where the story was going.
In the forty-ish pages of chapter one, the majority of the storytelling is done exposition-style; a lot of telling rather than showing. Although, it may be a symptom of how the dialogue is written. One character seems to cover a lot of the explaining and it quickly gets tiring. There are a couple spots where art moves the story along, and a better balance between the two would help.
Additionally, the content of the dialogue between Allison and Reggie is disappointing. They have several scenes together, but they all revolve around Burma. The reader has little idea about Allison and Reggie’s friendship. Their scenes remind me of someone trying to cheat the Bechdel Test guidelines: has two women, check, they talk to each other, check, about something other than a man, check, because how could a cat possibly be a man?
Unfortunately, the last page tried to rekindle my initial curiosity, but by that time, I found myself struggling to finish the chapter to write this review. Maybe the remaining chapters will find their balance and pace, but I’m not sure I’m drawn in enough to find out.
Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers
Zac Gorman is relatively well known in that weird little corner of the internet where video games and comics intersect. His comics work consists of moody and reflective looks at video games — typically those from 80s/early 90s kids’ childhoods — made up of animated panels that flash and change in ways that could only work in a digital medium. Costume Quest is a pretty cute game by Tasha Sounart and Double Fine Productions about twin siblings fighting monsters on Halloween, with their costumes becoming real. The costumes themselves, both what the children actually wear and what they’re supposed to be, should seem very familiar to people that remember being imaginative as a kid and unable to properly portray what they imagined. I definitely understand the reasoning for getting Gorman on board for a Costume Quest graphic novel — not only is the game about childhood, he’s done a comic about it before.
The rough lineart and muted color palate is consistent with Gorman’s work, and the story works with the world created in Costume Quest. This story is still about childhood, but instead it’s about the monsters of the game. The main character, Klem, is an archetype we all know: the little kid that wants to get in with the cool kids, and risks his neck to go to their party. He’s excitable, crushing on an older girl, and willing to get his friends into danger in order to get with her. Taking his friends Sellie and Brolo with him to the human world to steal candy for the party, Klem’s unknowingly being pursued by aggressive and slightly older monsters that want to get candy, humiliate Klem, and keep him from going to the party. Klem and Sellie have to deal with the disappearance of the dim-witted Brolo in the human world and track him down before the portal between worlds closes for a year, as well. The comic features cameos of characters from webcomics and other Double Fine video games alike. It’s written for an all ages audience, and avoids inappropriate humor or content for children. It’s also self aware- when describing the mechanics of the portal between the monster world and the human world, one of the older monster punks says,“I don’t have time to explain it. It’s all VERY hand-wavey.”
It’s a very simple story for children and a quick read, there aren’t many surprises. Klem is excited about everything, Sellie is his reserved and reasonable friend who is a girl who may or may not have feelings for him, and Brolo is big and slow-witted. It’s accessible, it’s short, it’s a fun read for kids, and it ties into the world of the video game.
The graphic novel ends with an afterword by Tasha Sounart herself, and how she was inspired by NES video games and her own childhood when she came up with Costume Quest. She specifically made sure that both male and female characters could use any costume, because she herself was made fun of for liking “boy stuff.” I’m certain there’s many readers that can relate to that. Tasha discusses how seeing Gorman’s comic about Costume Quest was her introduction to his work, and how good a fit he was for doing a story in the game’s world. His Costume Quest piece is printed at the end of the book without animation, which is a bit disconcerting for people used to the original version (or at least me.) If nothing else, it’s nice to see how important inclusiveness and representation is to the creators- the human cast is multi-ethnic and made up of both little boys and girls.
Fred Van Lente, Peter Bagge, Len Wein, Dan Braun, Corrina Bechko (W)
Alison Sampson, Peter Bagge, Luis Bermejo, Simone Delladio, Drew Moss (A)
Dark Horse Comics
Dislcaimer: I am not a fan of scary things. I tend to avoid the horror genre entirely. I once watched Ringu (the original Japanese movie that inspired The Ring) and couldn’t sleep without the lights on for two weeks after. So, it probably goes without saying that Creepy #18, published by Dark Horse, is not a comic I would normally read.
That being said, I do enjoy a little creepiness, every now and then, and I was pleasantly surprised to open the comic and find the first story, “The Executor,” by Fred Van Lente (script) and Alison Sampson (art), to be literary Edgar Allen Poe RPF rather than American Horror Story. It’s a good selection for the first story of a 50th anniversary issue, as the historical setting combined with the black and white artwork by Sampson, which utilizes a line art style not unlike what one might find in the 19th century, immediately transports the reader into the past, setting the stage for nostalgia and a suspension of disbelief. Nostalgia and disbelief seem to be the name of the game with this particular issue, but even an anniversary gallery and a cover by Dustin Nyugen cannot merit a recommendation, since smack dab in the middle of this collection is something I did not expect to find in a collection of horror comics in 2014, much less in one of Dark Horse’s titles: vile sexism.
“Winner Take All!” by Len Wein (script) and Luis Bermejo (art) is certainly worthy of being included in a collection entitled Creepy, although likely not for the reasons they intended. A full color medieval fantasy romp complete with a bikini-clad slave girl literally in chains in the midst of black and white horror comics can only be creepy in 2014. The bikini-clad slave girl in chains, Katika (although frankly I’m surprised she is even given a name, since her sole purpose is to be a supple and tempting offer to our protagonist, Gart) is owned by the wizened old man, Skrid, and wagered as part of a high stakes game of cards. The story is as awful as you might imagine based on that premise alone, with frequent references to Katika’s supple body and how Gart longs to “take her” if she would only accept her fate and her place. The narrative twist is, I suppose, somewhat redeeming from the feminist perspective, although it is also what is supposed to make the comic a horror comic.
Unfortunately for fans of illustrated horror, other than the Van Lente/Sampson contribution, all the stories suffer in some way, either narratively or in terms of content, although none so bad as the Lien/Bermejo collaboration. The jokes aren’t funny, the stories aren’t particularly creepy, and the artwork is generally uninspired. If this truly is, as the comic claims, “The Finest in Illustrated Horror,” then the genre is disappointingly bad, even for a non-fan such as myself.