Captain Ginger vol. 1 (#1 – 4) – Stuart Moore

3 out of 5

While I can’t say I’ve been overly wowed by the stories I’ve read, I have been continually wowed by the enthusiasm that goes into imprint AHOY’s works; my opinion on the quality of the works aside, there’s a freedom of expression and willful kookiness in the tales that feels fresh (and sort of harkens back to a classic Silver Age mentality, in a non-kitschy way), and the backmatter – while also hit and miss – is another ingredient that shakes things up, and smooths out the un-impact of the main story, if it’s not to your tastes.

Stuart Moore’s Captain Ginger – easily summarized as cats in space – rides that capsule description as far as it can in terms of “my aren’t cats cute and crazy” and cat puns, and that’s where, I imagine, mileage is going to vary with how one takes to the book. Not being a cat owner, and not having much tolerance for in-joke scenesters – whether that scene is pet ownership or whatnot – the parts of Moore’s tale that lean into that stuff rubbed me the wrong way, but perhaps more important to the rating… felt extraneous to the story. There’s some deeper lore here about the cats having been evolved into their anthropomorphic selves by the now extinct “feeders” – humans – and I can’t juggle the sci-fi story Stuart is building (an alien race called “Lumens” which wiped out the humans; the history of the feeders) with the dumb puns. It’s the Howard the Duck thing that Steve Gerber keyed on when others took over his character – do we human beings make “human” puns? Not really, no, and so why would an evolved race of cats make cat puns? I’m not necessarily saying you can only function as comedy or sci-fi and not both, but I get flustered when you lampshade some of the stupider jokes and then won’t some equally stupid ones to actually be funny, making our cats both evolved and unevolved at the same time. This kind of writing style, which opts to try and do everything at once, also affects the plotting, as there’s a really interesting core conceit here, of the cats trying to juggle their inherent feline natures with this new, post-feeder need to survive on their own, and then we get dropped in to the middle of a Lumen squabble on top of things, plus some runaround “twists” regarding garbled messages from space.

Captain Ginger is, natch, our ship’s captain, and setting aside the above-mentioned clutter and jokes, his attempts at navigating through crew management when there are unevolved kittens still running about and pissing on things, litterbox overflow to handle, territorial tussles, technology onboard their feeder-built ship which the cats have no way of understanding, and other such inventive issues to consider when you’re suddenly granted the ability to speak and more self-awareness, plopped into a world maybe not designed for your having those abilities… all of this is great stuff. It’s in this jumble that Moore’s wit and intelligence really shine, and then we have the amazing June Brigman making every page a masterpiece of comedy or drama. AHOY’s bright colorwork (Veronica Gandini) and the aforementioned extras round things out so that I wanted to keep reading Captain Ginger, even when my eyes were rolling out of my head at all the cat puns.

The first volume lands on an intriguing cliffhanger, but it also promises more excess. There’s so much cool stuff to explore without this, I’d prefer if Moore took his time to dig into that instead of expanding out into more space-faring adventures.