It has been said that “comedy is hard.” Four hundred pages of high quality autobiographical comedy? That’s a mountain of a challenge. Does Our Cats Are More Famous Than Us: A Johnny Wander Collection deliver?
Our Cats Are More Famous Than Us: A Johnny Wander Collection (Oni Press)
The collection, an omnibus chronicling eight years of webcomics by Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota, depicts the lives of its creators, their pets, and their friends as they traverse the rocky path to adulthood. The first comic included depicts Hirsh and Ota pondering what to do after college, and most of the material following it feels like snapshots of early adulthood. The reader is introduced to Hirsh and Ota’s then-roommates and cats, and much of the comedy is derived from the various characters’ quirks and offhand remarks. It is a difficult premise to craft effective material from, as the creators have to maintain a sense of down-to-earth realism without allowing reality’s more mundane aspects to hinder the book’s comedic consistency.
Fortunately, Hirsh and Ota rise to the challenge and deliver exceptional work. A work like this can easily rise or fall in effectiveness based on the quality of its characters, and the characters in this book are all very likable. Ota’s artwork imbues herself, Hirsch, and all of their roommates with charm. Each character’s personality traits are translated effectively onto the page with both affection and consistency. Keeping track of who’s who is never difficult, as each character is effectively distinguished from every other character. This is thanks in part to Ota’s work on the characters’ facial expressions, which are frequently fun and adorable. Of particular note is how effectively Hirsh’s reactions and subtle changes in mood are conveyed on the page, even though his eyes are always completely obscured by the brim of his hat.
The titular cats are the focus of some of the collection’s funniest comics. Hirsh and Ota do a great job of differentiating between all of the cats’ personalities, and attention to small details helps maintain the book’s sense of realism even as some of the comics’ plots seem farcical. The book’s main con concerns matters of personal taste. Four hundred pages is a lot, and one is likely to find some portions of the narrative less compelling than others. I personally found some of the material in the last third of the book to be less engaging than the earlier comics, but I thought that the very end had an upswing in quality that ended the collection very strongly. Your mileage may vary on which specific comics you enjoy the most depending on how much absurdity you like mixed into an everyday life style narrative. The book does a good job of keeping its content placed firmly enough in reality to avoid flying off the deep end very often, but on the flipside of things, a few of the comics included flirt with being too mundane to be especially interesting.
Overall, this collection is a strong one. The characters are memorable, the cats are adorable, and the humor depicts everyday personal events in a manner that makes them feel relatable and significant. Some sections of the book are more enjoyable than others but none of the comics ever come close to being bad. The best portions are both hilarious and emotionally impactful, as Hirsh and Ota depict not only young adulthood’s anxieties but also its charms. If you’re looking for a feel-good experience that hits close to home but lifts you up at the same time, you can’t go wrong with this book.
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