Dark Buffoonery: Cat ‘n’ Bat Review
After reviewing a literary graphic novel and an anthology the Holocaust’s representations, I wanted to read something fun. So I picked up Cat ’n’ Bat. Its name led me to lower my bar. So I enjoyed it. However, even if I read it with lowered expectations, I still would’ve been thoroughly impressed and, more importantly, thoroughly entertained.
Simply put: Cat ’n’ Bat is a lot of fun.
The structure of the volume reads like an episodic cartoon. Each story starts with Cat and Bat sitting on their couch before the television, usually drinking something. Then an image appears on the screen inspiring Cat and Bat to go out on an adventure. The adventures always start off well, but then they take a dark turn. Then the dark turn turns tar black with a good dollop of social commentary. For instance, Cat and Bat lose their jobs of invasive photographers to drones. The stories tend to follow that kind of trajectory.
Pretty much all the stories follow the same tone and formula throughout. However, it doesn’t grow old. In part this is due to how short the book is. There’s about eighty pages of content and each story takes up about five pages. Cat ’n’ Bat makes its point and then moves on.
Their brevity, though, shouldn’t distract us from Sashko Danylenko’s skill in visual storytelling, which he obviously draws from his animation background. Cat ’n’ Bat employs no words, and instead opts to spartan pictures in its sparse speech bubbles. And yet, this choice enhances the stories, giving them a stronger punch. Even when dealing with topics like Nazis and institutional racism the episodes get their point across powerfully. There is some serious talent displayed here, though, of course, it is more obvious in some stories than others.
So we turn to the main tool for the storytelling, the art. What is there to say? It’s serviceable in the good way. Cat ’n’ Bat lends itself to this style. If the pages exploded in gorgeous extravaganzas, as they do in Batman: Death by Design, the comedy would be lost. Or, at least, the playful and cartoonish aspects would be replaced with something grittier. Perhaps it would work, but it certainly wouldn’t be Cat ’n’ Bat.
There’s not much left to say about Cat ’n’ Bat. It’s silly, yes. That said, it’s also provocative in its jokes, but not in a heavy handed way. If you enjoy dark buffoonery, then you should certainly read it.
I’ve fallen into the habit of adding a tangential section, so I thought I’d continue it.
Reading Cat ‘n’ Bat I couldn’t help but think of Richie and Eddie from the nineties sitcom Bottom. The comedy is a similar buffoonery, but not as engaged with current affairs. Neither products should be consumed by people with softer sensibilities.