Advance Review: I Was the Cat by Paul Tobin and Ben Dewey

GameStop, Inc.

I Was the Cat coverAllison Breaking is asked by a stranger to write his biography for him. On arriving in England, she finds that her mysterious, reclusive client, Burma, is a cat, and he wants her to tell the story of his life, all of his lives. After she gets over her surprise at encountering a talking cat–which she does rather quickly–she settles down to record numerous tales of his past lives and encounters with famous people. These people were mostly strategic contacts, made ahe tried to take over the world, something he assures her and her friend that he is through doing now.

I was the Cat is a combination of humor and suspense, usually leaning a bit toward the humor side. Some of Dewey’s best panels feature Allison and her friend, Reggie, sitting and petting a beautiful, soft cat while behind the scenes images of Burma’s violent past and, sometimes, present, are shown. This is the puzzle Allison works on solving even as she listens to Burma’s account of his past: What is he doing now? He assures her constantly that he has given up trying to take over the world, but is it true? And, if it is not, what is she going to do? It is hard, she and Reggie agree, to take the “wretched things he’s done” seriously because “He’s just a cat. Apparently a weird, tyrant megalomaniacal cat in the past, but still…adorable.” Burma makes the most of their attention, keeping their focus on the adorable, soft aspect of his personality.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable expedition into the bizarre as we learn, through Burma that he was behind a number of historical events, including Napoleon’s campaign and Mary Queen of the Scots attempt to take over England: He has not, he admits, always chosen the right allies. He talks of running messages during World War one, his current luxurious accommodations contrasting sharply with the mud of the trenches or of teaching the Egyptians to worship cats back in an earlier life. As Burma’s tale unfolds, Tobin captures the determined, calculating qualities of a hunting cat quite well while not leaving out lighter moments: Burma took time out of world conquest to spend time with Aubrey Hepburn, whom he loved. There are even a couple of moments of pathos before the hunting cat comes back.

Dewey’s art captures the somewhat manic aspect of Allison and Reggie’s visits to and questions of Burma very well. They never quite know how seriously to take this strange new client of Allison’s, and it shows. Burma, of course, is cat incarnate, sleek, marmalade and very pleased with himself, head up and fur glossy. The past eras are given slightly different colors to as the flashbacks unfold: The Somme is green tinted, Edwardian England a somewhat muddy brown, and so on.

This is  one of 2014’s odder books so far and  one of the most enjoyable.

I Was the Cat is being published by Oni Press on August 6, 2014. Pre-order on Amazon.

Publication Details
Paperback, 144 pages
Author: Paul Tobin
Artist: Ben Dewey
Expected publication: August 6th 2014 by Oni Press
ISBN 1620101394 (ISBN13: 9781620101391)

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