“I Was The Cat” is a curiosity of a graphic novel, pardon the pun. The concept of the book — a talking cat attempts to take over the world through backdoor dealings and clandestine manipulation of world leaders — sounds like something perfectly suited to the medium. It’s a fantastical concept, delivered in script and artwork by Paul Tobin and Benjamin Dewey, that are both surprisingly grounded given their talents and the subject matter. While there are great pieces to be found in this tale, the end product suffered for me because of it’s own self-seriousness and a lot of telling without showing.
Allison Breaking is a successful blogger who is called to London by a mysterious stranger named Burma who would like her to write his memoirs. It turns out Burma is a talking cat who has lived thousands of years and now, on his ninth and final life, he is prepared to reveal how he has changed the course of history and discuss his previous attempts to control the world. Through a very slow reveal Allison discovers that his world-conquering past may not be the past and that she may be in over her head.
I really wanted to like this when I read the concept behind the book. The problem I had with this was that it takes itself very seriously. This is a story about a talking cat attempting global domination. That should be fun! But there isn’t a whole lot of fun to be had. It’s sort of interesting to see where Tobin inserts Burma across the centuries — in Egypt, at Napoleon’s side, in the bedroom scene of “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” — but this information is delivered very factually and with little engagement for the events. The script is very dry. We blow past the why of Burma being a talking cat very quickly, which I am totally okay with. But then there are pages and pages of the story dedicated to Allison and her friend discussing how they can hardly believe they know a talking cat. It feels like it holds the story back from moving in to new weird places with the reality of the situation. The ending of the book feels like it’s reaching for a “Soylent Green” feeling, but ends up feeling anticlimactic. There aren’t really any consequences to the story and it made me feel like I didn’t quite get why I read through it. I wish the script would have had a little more fun with it’s own concept — Tobin’s “Bandette” is a ton of fun and some of that whimsy would have been welcome in this tale.
Dewey’s artwork is really great. It’s equally soft and crisp. He takes care in his illustrations of Burma, I felt like I could reach out and touch his fur in several panels. The pages are detail-rich, both in character design and environment. Lots of animals to be seen in this story and Dewey does a great job with all of them. The composition of the pages is straightforward, which I don’t mean as a knock. They flow well and he is just at home on the pages where corporate espionage and murder creep into the modern day.
“I Was The Cat” is a great concept by excellent creators that, for me, fell a little short. If you’re looking for a very serious take on a very fun concept, or if you have an extreme fear and/or reverence for all things feline, then check this book out.