A couple of years ago, a photo showcasing a cat with a grumpy expression started making the rounds online. It grew from this single photo to a following of nearly 8.5 million Facebook users sharing the countless memes featuring this cat, and over 40 million views on the various videos showing the real life cat in all its disinterested glory. As a result of the cat’s popularity, it was invited to attend comic book conventions, meet & greets, and so much more.
In 2015, Dynamite Entertainment decided to bring the cat’s unbridled enthusiasm to book form in the all-ages comic book The Misadventures of Grumpy Cat. The series told the adventures of our sarcastic heroine, Grumpy Cat, and her best “friend” Pokey, a black and white cat stuffed with enthusiastic optimism. This volume collects the first three issues in this series, and gives the readers 11 stories of surprisingly brilliant storytelling.
You’d be forgiven for thinking a comic book about an internet meme would struggle to entertain you, yet the way this comic approaches its subject is rather clever. It essentially transforms Grumpy Cat into Garfield, a sarcastic, witty cat that hates everyone else, yet is constantly drawn into interactions with other animals. The other animals are aware of Grumpy Cat’s snarky approach to life, yet do their outmost to cheer her up, and include her in their adventures, usually to Grumpy Cat’s dismay.
The writing, featuring contributions from Ben McCool, Ben Fisher, Royal McGraw, and Elliott Serrano is fantastic throughout the series, as it balances sarcastic humor and wit with just enough enthusiasm in other characters to keep the narrative from going stale. It is also quite adult in its humor, making several references that only an older audience would appreciate. The type of adventures they go on are quite well balanced, as you are treated to everything from a superhero team-up, a 1950’s detective noir story, time travel, aliens, and more down to earth stories like our two felines playing with a phone, and celebrating Grumpy Cat’s birthday.
The artwork is excellent as well, and feature a nice mix between art styles. Some stories, like the ones illustrated by Michelle Nguyen and Ken Haeser feature quite a detailed style, fleshing out both the characters and backdrops in a more classic sense , while the stories illustrated by Steve Uy have a style more akin to what you’d expect from a kids comic, with minimalistic art and a slight digital feel to the line work. This contrast is a nice touch, as it makes the stories stand apart from each other, and helps each story feel unique. The colouring by Michelle Nguyen, Steve Uy, and Mohan does a great job at fleshing out the world our animals populate, making the art as a whole stand out as something quite unique for an all ages comic book.
Going through the eleven stories, an early highlight is the second story “Grumpy in HD” by Ben Fisher and Michelle Nguyen. It features Grumpy Cat, Pokey, as well as a dog that seems to only say “Good dog!” whenever someone talks to or about him. In the story, Grumpy is tasked with entertaining Pokey and the dog, and does so by manipulating our enthusiastic friends to completely destroy their owners living room. It shows a narcissistic, almost diabolic tendency for Grumpy Cat to only do things that serves her own self-interest.
Another highlight is the story named “Cell Phone” by Ben McCool and Steve Uy. In this story, Pokey discovers a phone, and attempts to communicate with a human that keeps trying to contact the owner of the phone. Grumpy Cat seems content belittling Pokey’s continued failure at communicating with the human, until Grumpy Cat manages to communicate with the human somewhat accidentally. As the tables have shifted, and Grumpy Cat is suddenly interested in the phone, Pokey attempts to return to the phone to where he found it but gets stopped by Grumpy Cat.
The final story worthy of a mention as a highlight is “Detective Cats”, once again by Ben McCool and Steve Uy. In this story, Grumpy Cat discovers that someone has eaten all the food from their outside bowl. Confident the culprit is Pokey, she has little interest in helping Pokey find the real perpetrator until our black and white friend points out that the guilty party might strike again, and this time he could eat their special inside treats. Realising it’s in her own best interest to help Pokey find the culprit, she dresses in a trenchcoat and accompanying hat, and starts narrating the story in the style of a 1950’s detective story. The throwback to 1950’s cinema is probably a dated reference that will elude most younger readers, but the older crowd can appreciate the sincerity with which the creative team has adapted this kind of narrative into their comic, while still maintaining the sarcastic wit of the other stories.
In all honesty, there are no huge faults with this comic, however it does have some minor issues worthy of mentioning. There is a slight repetition in settings, and while the stories told within these settings are unique, it does feel like a wasted opportunity to tell two horror stories set inside a haunted house. This isn’t really a big issue, but it does become quite noticeable when you read the entire collection in one sitting. Another issue is that the stories all follow a fairly predictable set-up with Pokey often being the one attempting to accomplish something within the story, and Grumpy Cat only getting involved when she becomes aware of exactly how she can benefit from participating. While this is a structure that is likely to be quite apparent to older readers, younger ones aren’t as likely to pick up on the recycled narrative. Once again, this isn’t a huge issue as the stories themselves are highly inventive in what kind of stories they do tell.
You will be shocked by just how entertaining a comic starring an internet meme can be. Grumpy Cat’s clever, sarcastic wit opposite her friend’s pulsating enthusiasm creates a lot of humorous moments. The writing is stellar in all of the 11 short stories included in this collection, and gives the reader just the right balance between snarky tone and up-beat optimism. The art is good, mixing mature and child friendly style well, allowing each story to feel fresh and unique. There’s no major problems with the three issues that have been collected into this volume, rather what small faults that can be found are nitpicks and not as noticeable to a general audience. This is a perfect comic for all ages, set to entertain both a younger, optimistic crowd, and a sarcastic, older one.
The Misadventures of Grumpy Cat Vol. 1 earns a shocking 10 out of 10! It hits stands on February 3rd.