3 out of 5
The thing I love about the exposure digital comic platforms like Comixology has given me to independent, self-published-type books is maybe self evident in that description: I find stuff I know I never would have found otherwise, and can hopefully directly support a creator while doing so. The thing I don’t love about that is that those creators will often produce a single issue of something very promising – like Whiskers McFadden, by Ryan Jenkyns – and then I’ll be stuck with only that single issue, wondering into what that promise could have bloomed.
The over-sized anthropomorphic cat, dressed in a spacesuit and partially stuck inside a regular-sized kitty cage, probably gives you the gist of the book. Jenkyns very much leans into this: every scene starts en media res, with young Margo already having found the “cat” which she’s convincing her mother to let her adopt, and then cut to the being she’s dubbed Whiskers McFadden being given a bowl of milk to lap out of, much to its chagrin. Jenkyns similarly cuts through a lot of potentially plodding dialogue by having Margo be a pretty smart kid, skipping more mundane fish-out-of-water gags (which would / could go both ways – McFadden misinterpreting Margo; Margo misunderstanding Whiskers) in favor of setting up the plot, which has McFadden playing the hero to interrupt some bank-robbing robots.
But that’s not to say the book is without humor: Ryan’s cartooning style is very expressive, old school Warner Bros, and we get a lot of mileage just out of the energy in the panels. There’s also a pretty great dog joke tossed in there, and Margo maintains just enough of her childishness to pull off some funny dialogue back-and-forths as well.
However, some of the more action-y bits elude Jenkyns – they’re cartoonish and so energetic, but not necessarily thrilling, with the vibe still comedic stretch-and-squish – and the flipside to that en media res approach is that the book doesn’t feel like it gets a proper intro. In its place, we’re introduced to two cop-ish types who first run afoul of the robots, and this lead-in perhaps gives the wrong impression that they’ll be a focus, and then suddenly they’re not.
Whiskers McFadden is very entertaining, though, these hiccups aside, and is brimming with that aforementioned promise. It’s been two years since this was released, and with a fun hook at the end of this issue, I’d still definitely be down for reading more.