Don’t waste your money on all that Batman and Spider-Man nonsense where boring humans do boring human things like drive cars and go to work and read. I can objectively say Action Cats is the best comic of the year, if not all time. It is a masterpiece on the level of The Watchmen, Y the Last Man, or The Unwritten, and there’s nothing in my oeuvre that would indicate bias so don’t even bother looking. No, I’m definitely just an average comic consumer with no particular predilection toward anything specific about this comic, certainly not KITTIES SO CUTE I THREW UP AND THEN CRIED. I bring only my scholarly expertise in regards to graphic storytelling to bear on this artistic work.
On that note, I believe Susan Sontag said, “Camp is a vision of the world in terms of style — but a particular kind of style. It is the love of the exaggerated,” and that definitely applies to Action Cats, an illustrated narrative following four cats who fight robots, sea monsters, and other horrors. As we all know, cats do not fight crime — only other cats or bottle caps or people who cradle them like babies — but this is an exaggeration, not an illustrated ethological pamphlet on domestic cat behavior; I want to be clear on this.
The Action Cats consist of four cats, each with a particular specialization: Jetpack Cat (AKA Samantha), Aqua Cat (AKA Mike), Rollerskate Cat (AKA Carlita), and Karate Cat (AKA Mister Fuzzybottom). While their owner’s at home, they’re just cats, lying around, staring out windows, rubbing on stuff, typical cat type behaviors. In fact, much of the issue concerns their battle with a Roomba (“I hate that thing! It’s unnatural”), which Karate Cat promptly dispatches with a flying kick. But when their owner Beatrice leaves, they don their super suits and become Action Cats (!).
As you’d expect, the story’s pretty simple. The plot begins with the cats individually resolving four different disasters, each using their specific skillsets: Jetpack Cat punches a meteor off a collision course, Aqua Cat kicks a sea lorich, Rollerskate Cat blows away poison gas with speed skating, and Karate Cat saves kids’ lunches from alien ninjas. Then they go home and pretend to be regular housecats, like Clark Kent or Peter Parker, except cats. But when a giant robot shows up, the Action Cats find themselves unable to lick it to death and sitting on it has no effect, so what will they do to stop its rampage?
The Eisner and Harvey award winning writer Adam P. Knave uses short adorable sentences to communicate this elegantly crafted story while Eamon Dougherty matches it with equally adorable art that looks like Adventure Time crossed with maybe Doug. If I have one gripe, it’s that it’s a one off, so there won’t be any further entries in the epic Action Cats saga. Oh well. It’s only 99 cents on comixology.com, so you can download and read it on your computer or iPad.
Something about superpowered talking cats appeals to me in a deep primal way I cannot fully articulate, like a key turning in my brain lock. One example I can think of comes from the Red Lanterns comic series (like Green Lanterns only their power comes from rage): a character called Dex-Starr. Dex-Starr is a cat who pukes acid blood and flies around the galaxy dispensing righteous vengeance via murder. There’s also Socks the Cat from Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man. Socks is an ancient avatar of The Red, and at full strength, he can grow to gargantuan size and tear monsters to pieces. There’s also the webcomic Doctor Cat, about a cat who is also a doctor, but Doctor Cat doesn’t have any superpowers unless you count medical expertise as a superpower, which I suppose it is now that I think about it. Tigra, Catman, Black Panther, and Catwoman do not count as they are mostly people and not cats.
For blending the perfect mix of cute art, superpowered cats, and funny writing, Action Cats is an important and rare milestone in the supercat comic genre, hopefully one of many in the future.