Comics: Battle Cats Issue #1

Matt talks raging felines in this latest first issue review!

Yeah.....I wanted to.
There's probably a certain segment of comic book readership that would enjoy a book like Battlecats. This niche would most likely have loved Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers and/or Thundercats growing up (and still does, read into that what you will, dear readers), play a healthy amount of Dungeons and Dragons or World of Warcraft or something along those lines, and be impressed by copious amounts of blood and de-limb-ification.  This book features a lot of parts-bin stuff: big, buff male characters; slinky, scantily-clad females; one guy who has a sarcastic attitude that gets on his companions' more serious nerves; gratuitous blood and guts; a quest; an army of cannon fodder worse at their job than Star Wars battle droids.  It just doesn't feel like it's anything new, except that they're all furries- I mean cat-people.

Let's talk about what's good in the book.  The computerized coloring comic books use these days is pretty slick, and this is no exception.  I was able to read it for free.  The art was decent enough.  Uh...

Maybe part of Battlecats' problem is that it was the first issue of a brand-new series. I have no idea what kind of backstory is important going in.  What am I supposed to know about this situation?  Who am I supposed to remember?  Most superhero #1s get around this by simply repackaging existing heroes/villains, so there's always some baggage being brought along that gives us some context.  With Battlecats here, it felt like I was missing half the story.  Oh, I read the little world-building synopsis at the front of the book, but at the end I was like, huh?  Where are they?  Did they make it all the way into that place, are do they still need to travel a bit?  This is a big indication of pacing issues.  They're sitting around talking and then they're suddenly battling an army of deadites.  And why are they so surprised or apalled or whatever at the dude they meet?  It felt like a big surprise reveal that should have shocked me, had I known just what the hell was going on.  Instead I was like, “Uh, okay?  Who's this guy?”  A good first issue is going to leave you wanting to know more rather than irritated at there not being enough information there in the first place.

I read through the book a few times so I could try to write a better spoiler-free review, and I still can't remember their names, although I guess I get the premise of the book.  These guys (well, three male and two female feline-people) are like their world's biggest badasses and some unseen king whose name ends with -mad (I'm sure he won't end up being a bad guy in later issues) has sent them to slay some beast because he's eating all the sheep in the countryside, causing all the shepherd boys to run into their villages shouting “WOLF!  WOLF!”  Well, that wasn't explicitly stated, but it was implied.  Okay, maybe it wasn't implied, but I had to entertain myself somehow when I was reading it because the book itself wasn't doing that great of a job. look comfortable. 
It's a real shame, too, as this is the kind of book that could be a real hoot to read.  But you have to do it in a certain way, like those Avatar episodes where the creators take a look back at what's happened before the final showdowns in a pretty self-deprecating manner.  You have to be a bit obvious, winking at your audience the whole time, maybe breaking the fourth wall, and your characters have to know that every single thing they're doing is ridiculous and all in good fun.  If this is your mission, you have a tough sell ahead of you, but it's doable.  J. Scott Campbell's original Danger Girl comic is a great example of this.  And isn't that Deadpool's whole MO?

What you DON'T do is what these guys did in Battlecats.  You don't make your characters overly serious, self-righteous windbags who can't stand the guy who's written into the plot to provide comic relief.  Don't give them strange names and expect them to be memorable.  Sure, Star Wars got away with Obi-wan Kenobi and Darth Vader because the main protagonists were Luke, Han, and Leia (all names we recognize), and Darth Vader sounds scary.  We're given Kaleera, Kelthan, and Mekkar with no context and expected to remember them.  I'm glad there wasn't a quiz at the end.  I'd have failed it, although I think I did anyways because I was still like, “Huh?  What?  Who?”  And the worst part is that I don't care if I never learn the answers to those questions.

My verdict?  Buy it if you're a furry.  You might get some usage out of it.  If you're not?  I guess you could look at the pretty coloring.


-Matthew Streeter