Book review of Josie and the Pussycats comic volume 1
This is a book review of the graphic novel/comic “Josie and the Pussycats – volume one” by creators Marguerite Bennett, Cameron Deordio & Audrey Mok. This comic is as fresh as the Archie comic I reviewed earlier on the blog.
Summary of the comic
“Grab your cat tails and kitty ears – Josie and the pussycats are back! In this hard-rockin’, hard-to-put-down graphic novel, Josie gets the band together to help her climb to the top of the music world. But rock ‘n’ roll fame isn’t a formula – it takes hard work and killer tunes. Can the girls get their act together and, more importantly, stay friends? Or will Josie’s long-time frenemy Alexandra Cabot’s machinations send the whole thing to the bargain bin? […]”
This summary text is borrowed from the back of the novel
Josie and the Pussycats – the meta-aware band
Let’s take the positives first! (Yes, I have negative remarks, so beware). Having seen the Riverdale tv-series on Netflix and scouting the local comic shop, I was happy to find this comic. I mean, instead of focusing on the male leads, this is focused on some of the supporting, female characters. I liked Josie and the Pussycats in the series, with the whole band being (more or less) powerful, young, black women. It sent a message and I had begun to wonder why they were slowly written out of the show.
So here I was, with my new Josie and the Pussycats comic, ready for more girl-power from Riverdale. The girls in the graphic novel share the same names as their Riverdale versions, but now we’re down to one black girl. Which I guess is not really incremental to the characters, and reshaping and retelling comic characters is quite common.
The girls are very aware of their existence in a comic/graphic novel universe, and continues to break “the 4th wall”. This is like, when the guys from the tv-series “The Office”, look straight into the camera, implying that they know you are there, watching. That kind of meta-awareness from characters is always funny to me. Maybe because I am a dramaturg, who works with performing arts and the “4th wall” concept all the time.
The girls comment on important scenes and effects, that happen due to it being like a classic comic. Lines like “We can always chicken out, switch to our B-plot, learn a valuable if condescending lesson about female empowerment, and handwave the lack of any real progress by ending the issue in a dance party.”. You also have the classic “COMIC BOOK SCIENCE”-sentence, describing how the girls managed crazy stunts on a motorbike.
Fame and (girl) power
But! And here comes the not-so-positives about Josie and the Pussycats – volume one.
Josie, the lead of the band, was for me, not very likeable at all. It may be due to writing or the format of the comic issues, being so short. But I found it hard to actually root for her, and liked the other girls more. Josie is finding it hard to navigate the fame they get (out of absolutely nowhere), and her friends are very forgiving. The “blonde girl” is “breaking stereotypes” by being “the smart one”, and talking about existentialism on every other page. It’s cute, but doesn’t do the trick for me. And oh yes, the one with most of the meta-aware lines, is the one black girl. It sends a weird message, even though I find it hard to put a finger on why.
The plots are uninteresting at best, for a woman like me, in the end of my 20s. If you’re familiar with the cartoon series Totally Spies! from the early 2000s, well. This felt like a bad episode of that. And I really liked Totally Spies! It had way more girl power than this comic. I’ll spare you the feminism-lecture this time around.
Josie and the Pussycats in this version, were funny at times, but if I removed the constant breaking of the 4th wall, it didn’t leave much quality story behind. The artwork again, is gorgeous and matches the young vibe of the girls and their world. But the stories fell flat and left me disliking Josie, for being so preoccupied with her own reality. Lack of real growth is hard to come back from.
Especially when the comic generally seemed to follow a classic superhero/supervillain vibe, with Alexandra, the frenemy, being extremely villain-y and more complex, albeit with a horrible attitude.
“We can always chicken out, switch to our B-plot, learn a valuable if condescending lesson about female empowerment, and handwave the lack of any real progress by ending the issue in a dance party.” – And that is what they did.
Do you like to read graphic novels? Tell me which one is your current favorite, in the comments below!
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