Josie and the Pussycats have been touring space for a couple of years and they’ve fast become the hottest band in the galaxy. Their fans turn up in droves to see them and weep with joy when they meet the trio. But fame has its disadvantages: chiefly, never getting any rest. It’s becoming a bit too much for some members of the band. Could this be the end of the Pussycats?
Josie and the Pussycats in Space
Alex de Campi (Writer), Lee Loughridge (Colours), Jack Morelli (Letters), Devaki Neogi (Art)
April 22, 2020
My fond memories of reading Josie and the Pussycats when I was a teenager keep drawing me to these new incarnations of the characters. And I keep coming away disappointed. Josie and the Pussycats in Space sounds like a great idea—our favourite Archie Comics band in space! This should be a combination from Comics Valhalla. But it’s a messy, unsightly, weirdly regressive story that I was glad to see the back of.
There are some concepts that I liked, so let’s start with those. First up, I love that Melody is as much of a goofball as I remember her—her mind is solely on getting more food to eat, no matter what the situation around her. It’s an incongruous reaction to the events in the book and that’s what makes it funny. (I feel I must add that Melody looks like a conventionally attractive, thin woman, so her constant requests for food are treated as a personality quirk—had she been a plus-size character, this would likely have been treated very differently by everyone around Melody.) Aside from these quirks, Melody is also shown to suffer from anxiety and this is handled quite well. Not only do Josie and Valerie know how to help Melody through it, but nobody dismisses her reaction—not even the strangers on their spaceship. This was a welcome examination of mental health in a YA comic book, and some high concept series could learn a thing or two from this story.
I liked Valerie in Josie and the Pussycats in Space. She’s level-headed and innovative, but she’s also tired and practical. She loves being in the band but she acknowledges that this life is too hectic and it’s keeping them away from their families. Josie, however, comes across as a little naïve in this scenario, not to mention a little bit self-centred. Yes, the band is doing well and they can become even bigger than they are right now, but a burnt-out band isn’t a good one, and definitely not a happy one.
Sadly, this plotline is pretty much dropped after the first couple of pages as the real plot kicks in. While in cryo-sleep, their ship is invaded by a gooey alien who wants to eat everyone. I… was hoping for something a bit different but it’s just the plot of Alien, except the chestburster is replaced by a skin-melter.
Part of the reason why I couldn’t enjoy the alien attack story in Josie and the Pussycats in Space was that the art seemed to be all over the place. That may be because too much was being crammed into each panel and far too many characters looked the same. And when the light was just slightly off, I couldn’t even distinguish the characters from their hair colour, so that made the reading process even more frustrating.
Let’s face it, this story has been done to death, and this latest version by Alex de Campi doesn’t bring anything new to the plate. I was half-expecting them to rid the ship of the alien through the power of music, but aside from Josie’s guitar pick being used to open a panel, their music has little to do with the book at all. I knew Josie and the Pussycats in Space would be a cheesy story, given the 1972 cartoon series that was its inspiration, but it’s better than this rehash of Aliens.
Even the evolution of the alien—which was meant to add more horror to the book—wasn’t particularly well done. The pacing slowed down way too much for the reader to feel the fear of a monster who could be anyone. And then it sped up to such a degree that one wasn’t sure what they were seeing and why it mattered. It’s only on the very last page that the reader gets a surprise twist, but (at least for me) it was ruined by an enormous clue that was flashed at readers a couple of pages before. It’s like the creators of the book didn’t trust the readers to examine the more subtle clues to achieve that a-ha moment so, they ruined their surprise.
Also, why the cliffhanger ending for a book that apparently has no sequel? Why wasn’t the ending brought in halfway through the book so there could be a proper conclusion to the story? It felt a bit like the creative team didn’t know what to do following this massive reveal so they padded up the rest of the story to fill in 100 pages. I’m sure that’s not what happened, but to the reader, that’s how it comes across. It’s not a great feeling.
I definitely didn’t like the Pussycats drooling over the administrator/ later captain of the ship; it was regressive to distill the essence of this inspirational girl band to the boys they like. That he is their undoing, in the end, irks me even more. It’s like women can’t think when there’s a man around. Aren’t we well past that kind of attitude?
I was excited for Josie and the Pussycats in Space but far from having fun reading it, I questioned everything I encountered in the book. I couldn’t understand why the story was as slow as it was, and why it sped up to a denouement that felt tacked on rather than being earned—a payoff for reading through the story. Despite a few strong character moments, the book struggles under the weight of its genre, and loses focus far too often. Unfortunately for Josie and the Pussycats, they’re lost in space.