Friday, April 10, 2015

Book Report 52 Project: I Was The Cat by Paul Tobin and Benjamin Dewey

Think about the different between a cat and a dog for a moment. Dogs are fun loving bundles of energy that are happy to see you, and pretty much just want love. Cats, on the other hand, want you to bring them food and if do not bring them food fast enough, you probably will become their food. And yet, we’ve invited them both into our homes. We classify them both as “pets.” But one loves you unconditionally, and one puts up with your presence long enough to be fed, maybe scratched behind the ears, and sleeps 20 hours a day.

So the idea of a megalomaniacal cat as seen in Paul Tobin and Benjamin Dewey’s Graphic Novel, I Was The Cat is far fetched only insofar as it seems unlikely that a cat would be awake long enough to attempt to take over the world. 

I Was The Cat is the story about Allison Breaking, a blogger with problems. (Well beyond the stupid name, I’m guessing.) She is almost broke, and her blog “Breaking News” (Oh, NOW I get it) isn’t doing so well. So when she receives a phone call from a mysterious Burma asking her to write his memoirs, she can’t really refuse. Here’s the kicker: Burma is a cat. A cat on his ninth life, and he wants to chronicle how he, a simple house cat, has been wrapped up in many historical events, including romancing Audrey Hepburn and his stint running messages for the British in World War 1. He’s been a busy little animal.

Some of you may remember that I crossed paths with a book of Paul Tobin’s before… the sexually obsessed wasted premise Superhero novel Prepare to Die! I have to admit, I did a terrible English Major thing, and I judged a book by it’s cover. I walked into a brand new comic book store that apparently had been in a location in a mall (remember those, kids?) for a few months but for some reason I didn’t notice it. Upon my entrance, I was drawn to the graphic novel section and a book with a cat on the front. In the vague recesses of my mind, I remember hearing about this book, so I quickly purchased it. It was when I got home that I realized it was another Paul Tobin book. But, in fairness, I didn’t have a problem with the concept or writing of Prepare to Die! so I was willing to give this another chance.

Unfortunately, a lot of the problems of that book were here, too. (Not the sex part, thankfully. I don’t know I could have handled a sex-obsessed cat.) 

Let’s start with the good: this is a pretty fun book. It’s hard to go wrong when you’ve got what amounts to a James Bond type book but the focus is on the cat the villain is stroking as opposed to the man himself. It was interesting to see all of different lives of Burma, and how he was weaved within history. Plus, the characterization of Burma is awesome, he’s very aware of the ridiculousness of the situation. In fact, there’s an air of ridiculousness in the whole book, which I think is important. It’s when something takes itself too seriously that it becomes impossible to really enjoy. 

The art is pretty good, too. Dewey manages to work in his depiction of London as something that’s actually alive. There is always something go on in the background, people are talking, lives are being lived. It feels like the busy city that it actually is. He gets little details right that make the story worth reading. 

However… we need to talk about the ending. I’d say spoilers follow, but, well.. nothing happens.

The entire graphic novel feels like a prelude to something else. Or rather, it WOULD feel like a prelude to something else, if it was actually building towards something. In the story, it turns out Burma IS still trying to take over the world, having some complex scheme with food additives. Or something. There’s a spy trying to stop him, he doesn’t. And then the whole thing ends with Allison saying, ‘I’ll write your story” and, that’s it. Of course, she’s been with him the entire time, learning the story, so it’s not so much as a revelation as I felt the publisher messed up and put a page in the back that needed to be towards the front. This is not a revelation, it’s the plot of the freaking book. Or lack thereof. 

It’s unfortunate, but this lack of a climax completely brings the book down. It’s fun learning about Burma’s previous lives. I mentioned the Audrey Hepburn thing earlier, because it’s actually a really fun sequence. But like the rest of the book… it doesn’t really go anywhere. What could have been an interesting story about a cat and the world is just sort of… meh. 

Tobin has shown once again that he’s brilliant when coming up with some GREAT concepts with books, but in the end, he doesn’t know how to execute them. Maybe if we had more spy scenes. Or maybe it could have been focused more on Allison’s dilemma of whether or not to work for him. To me, this is the worst kind of book, because it wastes potential. I can handle a bad book. What I can’t handle is a book that manages to waste a great premise and spend more time trying to be mysterious rather than tell a great story, or hit upon some of the better jokes. 

So, should you read this book? I don’t know. Ultimately it’s an interesting book. Yes, there’s the “Breaking News” pun that is so difficult to get through. I can’t really recommend it too much, though. There’s a joke from the Simpsons that I frequently use when describing movies. It’s a hot day and they want to go to the movies. So, they pull up to the theater and see a sign that says “FREE AIRCONDITIONING WITH MOVIE!” I sue that to talk about movies that aren’t terrible enough to be called awful but not good enough for you to run out and see now. That’s pretty much of which this book is the equivalent. I guess I just expected more from a book about our kitten overlords.

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