Grumpy Cat Vol. 1 Review

The Misadventures of Grumpy Cat (and Pokey)
Written by Ben McCool, Ben Fisher, Royal McGraw, and Elliot Serrano
Art by Steve Uy, Michelle Nguyen, and Ken Haeser
Colors by Steen Uy, Michelle Nguyen, and Mohan
Series edited by Rich Young

I once read a Grumpy Cat comic. It was terrible.
– Grumpy Cat… probably

GrumpyCat01-Cov-E-PhotoThe Misadventures of Grumpy Cat (and Pokey) is a collection of short stories by multiple artists and writers, though they all follow similar art styles and formats. Grumpy Cat—the cat based on an internet meme—is grumpy. She lives with another cat named Pokey, who is definitely not grumpy. They get into mischief, mostly springing from Pokey’s overactive imagination and naivete, and Grumpy’s wish to remain grumpy, as well as get treats. They become superheroes, become detectives, explore haunted houses, go to ComicCon… all with Pokey enthusiastically dragging along a snarky and… well… grumpy Grumpy Cat.

Grumpy Cat, who is basically a picture of a weird-looking cat that went viral on the internet, has spawned a huge amount of merchandising and fiction. I’ve watched the two Grumpy Cat movies, both of which are surprisingly good, with Aubrey Plaza providing the voice of Grumpy Cat, and most of her dialogue filled with snarky pop culture references. This book… tries to do that. The stories try to invoke the meme, with Grumpy occasionally saying that she hates various things, and most of the stories reference nerd culture: superheroes, cosplay, etc. However, the humor often feels forced, with the pop culture references just being… there. The main focus of the stories is the interplay between Pokey and Grumpy, but that interplay often feels forced as well. The writers have to figure out why Grumpy, who doesn’t want to do anything, is actually doing anything.

The main problem with creating a comic about a sarcastic grumpy cat who loves to sleep and eat is the looming shadow of Garfield. You know, the cat who’s been napping, scarfing down lasagna, and torturing a dog and his owner since the seventies. Grumpy Cat seems a bit more pop culture savvy than her orange predecessor, but her stories end up following fairly familiar patterns. In “Treasure Map,” Pokey finds a treasure map in the back yard, which turns out to be the key to an elaborate revenge on Grumpy Cat’s part in order to get Pokey’s share of cat treats (I suppose treats are healthier than lasagna). In “Grumpy in HD,” Grumpy manipulates Pokey and the dog into wrecking the living room, telling them various ways of turning on the TV. In other stories, Grumpy reluctantly follows Pokey on adventures, mainly complaining that she would rather be sleeping or eating. The thing is… we’ve seen all this before. Pokey is basically a combination of Nermal, Odie, and Jon. Grumpy is even fairly shaped like Garfield, and seems to have much more in common with him than with the meme.

comic-grumpy-catI will say, though, that the last few stories are significantly better than the earlier ones. By far my favorite story is the last one: Ben Fisher’s and Steve Uy’s “I Know What You Did Last Summer… I Just Don’t Care.” Pokey wants to go trick-or-treating with Grumpy on Halloween, complete with couples’ costumes. Grumpy insists that Halloween should be terrifying, not fun, so she takes Pokey to a haunted house, where they meet a mummy cat (not a cat with kittens… a cat with bandages). Both the writing and the visuals in this story are incredibly strong. Pokey and Grumpy dressed as Nappa and Vegeta (Dragonball Z), then Luke Skywalker and Yoda (Star Wars), then Michaelangelo and Krang (TMNT)… The list of costumes doesn’t do the visual humor justice. Likewise, Grumpy’s snarks and pop culture references become much better: “Anything in there?” “All your worst fears and nightmares.” “Nickelback is recording a Creed cover album?” While the first few stories struggled to find Grumpy’s voice, this last one was sharp, to the point that I could actually hear Aubrey Plaza reading the lines again.

Buy it for your kids. Children will love the bright colors and lively art, as well as the relationship between Pokey and Grumpy. And they’ve probably read or watched Garfield, so this comic will give them the same kind of humor. Adults will enjoy the last few stories, which focus more on snarking at pop culture than convoluted revenge plots and schemes to get more treats.

I have a PhD in literature and I like fanfiction and podcasting.

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