By Dan Cox
Oh, this one seemed to have everything going for it…. great concept, nice looking artwork, and good track record – it’s written and drawn by the same Dan Cox who writes the quite wonderfully surprising and unexpectedly best of year list making Hitsville UK.
And don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun, cute, entertaining 46-pages of comic, a lot of which you can see online. But there’s just something slightly off with the pacing, too much going on at various points, and Cox seems to have issues with fitting in his various plot threads in readable order. But perhaps the biggest problem with it is that there’s moments throughout where the comedy cuts through, the characters interact with good natured sarcasm and wit, and we see what it could have, should have been like throughout.
Again, just as with Hitsville UK #1, a second reading certainly helped, as did reading it on a bigger screen – as his text font is just that little small to read on my little 10″ netbook screen. Cox has also sent along a print copy of Graveyard Cats – as it’s one that will join the school graphic novel library – and if anything the text problem is exacerbated by reduction to A5 print size. The pupils wont mind – their eyes are good and young, but for older readers it could really prove problematic.
But there’s still the problem of too much going on in a very confined story; essentially just a supernatural, laser eyebeam firing, ancient Egyptian Mummy taking a wrong turn somewhere and needing pushing back by the guardians of the graveyard – who just happen to be a motley group of slightly inept cats, working for the Parliament Of Bones… here, I’ll let them explain….
Right, you can certainly see the problem with the text there. But hopefully you’ll also see some of what it does have going for it – a lovely light cartooning style I really enjoyed, and a little of the gag humour Cox throws in. That great line at the end, the timing of the cuts between the Parliament talking up their protectors and the reality of the cats making a mess of dealing with the Mummy, that’s the comic at its very best.
The interactions between the cats are lovely, really crackling with character and fun, just the ways you want cats to be, all sarcasm, and silliness, this sort of thing….
“It’s Tuesday again isn’t it? I hate Tuesdays me.”
That’s a great, great line right there. And they’re littered through the comic, but there’s just not enough of them, or maybe there’s too much material around the great lines, and the effect is a dilution?
Here you go, here’s another great bit of conversation, a great moment between one of the older cats and a kitten wanting in on the action to fight the Mummy:
“Question. Can you make things explode by looking at them?”
“Well he can. Go somewhere safe yeah?”
But somewhere along the way Cox seems to loose track of his idea, of the thing that makes this comedy horror work, and the story gets a little too wrapped up in itself, there’s the Doooooom Serpent (you have to pronounce all the oooos), the crows, the rats get involved for some reason that really isn’t all that important, and suddenly it all feels a little too cluttered with characters and what was a simple, funny tale in the initial pages becomes over-complicated and troublesome and the simplicity is lost, and with it, some of the easy reading, relaxed pace and charm.
So what we’re left with is a problem – it’s potentially really great, and depending on how much you buy into the concept, the cuteness, and the gags you might really, really love it. But I was really after something a lot tighter, where the characters’ interactions worked a little better, where the humour really came to the fore and the promise of what I read here comes good. As it is The Graveyard Cats is a frustrating comic, not because it isn’t any good, but because it’s teetering on the brink of greatness, shows flashes of brilliance, moments of wonder and fantastic fun, and I just wanted it to take the next step.
Graveyard Cats is available to read (incomplete as yet) online, but as always, this sort of book deserves a little of your money – full details at The Graveyard Cats website.