Captain Marvel’s feline friend Chewie reigns supreme in Marvel Meow, Nao Fuji’s manga about the cat’s (er, flerken’s) misadventures across the Marvel Universe.
Nao Fuji (art), Shunsuke Nakazawa (text)
Marvel Comics/Viz Media
October 12, 2021
There is no better time on Earth to be a cat-loving manga enthusiast. Slink around the manga shelves at Barnes and Noble, and you’ll see titles like Chi’s Sweet Home, What’s Michael, Junji Ito’s Cat Diary, Cat + Gamer, The Walking Cat, A Man and His Cat, I Am a Cat, I’m the Catlords’ Manservant, I Am a Cat Barista, Cats of the Louvre, Hard-Boiled Stories from the Cat Bar, The Treasure of the King and the Cat, The Masterful Cat is Depressed Again Today, The White Cat’s Revenge as Plotted from the Dragon King’s Lap…You get the point. Now sliding in neatly beside these books and joining the cat-manga canon is Marvel Meow. A collection of comic strips and illustrations by Japanese artist Nao Fuji, Marvel Meow chronicles alien cat creature Chewie as she claws her way into the hearts of Marvel’s greatest heroes.
This slim hardcover volume chases Chewie all across the Marvel Universe, from waking up with Captain Marvel to sailing across the cosmos with the Silver Surfer. The book is in black-and-white with bright splashes of spot color for certain character groups: a warm, reddish-pink for the Avengers, an electric violet for the X-Men, and sky-blue for street-level heroes like Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man. Many strips utilize the classic nine-panel grid layout with Instagram-ready square panels – you may remember some of the Marvel Meow comics from when they were shared on Marvel’s social media and turned into variant covers in 2019, in time for the Captain Marvel film.
As amusing as these strips are (Chewie uses Groot as a scratching post, Chewie steals Peter Parker’s lunch, etc.), the book truly shines when Fuji breaks free of the nine-panel grid and plays with the form. In one four-panel strip, Moon Knight has a vision of several superheroes, only for Chewie to pop into the dream and then hop out of the thought balloon into the real world, startling the mystical hero. A nine-page sequence starring the X-Men begins with Jean Grey and Cyclops baking a cake at the X-Mansion, with the Phoenix (drawn by Fuji as a fat, flaming pigeon) glowering on the windowsill. The Phoenix possesses Chewie, leading to a hallway fight scene that unfolds like a side-scrolling beat ‘em up game with the flying cat avoiding capture from mutants like Psylocke, Archangel, Storm, and Multiple Man. The result is a cute but chaotic welcome home party for Professor X and Magneto.
An impressive feature in Marvel Meow is the scope of its cast. Thankfully, the manga doesn’t constrain itself with just Captain America, Iron Man, and the other recognizable heroes of the MCU; Glob Herman, Galacta, and Dogpool are among the deep-cut characters with cameos. (A character glossary is smartly included for new readers, young readers, and decrepit readers like me who forgot Galactus’ out-of-continuity daughter who has appeared in print exactly twice.) This also stops the gags from growing stale or repetitive; the humor comes from the specific ways the heroes react to the alien cat invading their personal space. Gwenpool stealing Chewie for selfies and Ghost Rider giving her the Penance Stare for trashing his apartment are, of course, cats of a different color. Chewie even encounters powerful pooches like Lockjaw and Thori, the talking hellhound, but surprisingly, cat-themed heroes Black Panther, Tigra, and Black Cat are missing from the fun.
Marvel Meow is a light and fizzy read for cat-lovers, the kind that makes me slip and type “light and fuzzy” in my first draft. Nao Fuji’s artwork is dynamic and delicately detailed, but most importantly: she is uncannily, amazingly, marvelously good at drawing cats. If you’re like me and recently re-read the Sailor Moon manga only to make the heartbreaking realization that Naoko Takeuchi has never seen a cat in her life, you know what a vital skill this is. I was happily surprised by how much I recognized my cats in Chewie, whether she’s loafing on the Infinity Gauntlet or being contentedly insistent on laying on Iron Man’s keyboard while he works. Relatable cat antics amid the surreal, superheroic excess of the Marvel Universe make Marvel Meow a special treat – one that cats ask for by name.