Review: Bee and PuppyCat #1

by Kenneth Kimbrough

Bee and PuppyCat #1 – Natasha Allegri, Garrett Jackson, and Madéleine Flores (KaBOOM! Studios)

Bee and PuppyCat is adapted from a ten-minute short created by Natasha Allegri that exploded in popularity after its debut on YouTube. Riding on the heels of this interest, a successful Kickstarter campaign rocketed it into production as an ongoing animated series. Bee-and-PuppyCatLuckily, fans of that series won’t have to wait until production is finished to continue the magical pair’s adventures.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Bee and PuppyCat follows the adventures of Bee — an unemployed yet fashionable millennial — and her ambiguously feline and canine pet, PuppyCat. Together these two take on magical temp jobs for extra cash. What makes the series distinct is the way it blends the ribbons, bubbles, and big eyes of shōjo manga such as Sailor Moon with the awkward and bizarre humor from comics like Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors, and Scott Pilgrim.

This first issue from BOOM! Studios’ kids imprint, kaBOOM!, contains the first parts of two stories. The opening piece by Natasha Allegri and Garrett Jackson jumps right into Bee and PuppyCat’s life after their first temp job. I hesitate to say too much about the narrative because it only serves to set up the story we’ll get in the next issue, making it read more like a prologue than a first issue. However, there are a few fun jokes centering around Bee sleepwalking and PuppyCat being too short to reach a doorknob.

What’s more worrying is the way Allegri and Jackson explain a little too much about the characters while leaving some of the more bizarre elements unexplained. Newcomers may feel lost after reading this story, especially since much of it is an extended dream sequence that doesn’t seem to connect to anything in this particular issue. However, those who’ve watched the short will know that the psychedelic dreams are recurring. Another problem is with the way PuppyCat’s speech is translated into English (in the show, he’s voiced by a vocaloid). To be fair, the show has subtitles for his synthesized voice. But in comic form, the English translation takes away the electronic charm, making him read more like Garfield than R2-D2. All this, combined with the large, simple art style, makes for a surprisingly brief read, especially since some of the moment-to-moment sequences seem written for animation rather than comics.

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On the other hand, Madéleine Flores’s backup story, “What Happened Part 1,” works perfectly as a first-issue installment despite it being a mere five pages. The first page opens on PuppyCat trying to claw at a lobster through a fish tank, which characterizes him perfectly. Additionally, Flores gives more interaction by showing the duo shopping for snacks, and she even follows up on a loose plot thread from the animated short. Her cartooning style is also bolder and so is her choice of colors. Perhaps the story’s short length necessitates its economy, but — with no offense to Allegri and Jackson — I would have preferred Flores’s pages as the lead-in.

Fans of the series who are eagerly awaiting the longer episodes will find plenty to like about this first issue. But newcomers may want to watch the short beforehand. The story and artwork are nice, but there’s not enough substance to justify the four-dollar cover price. If you have a talking PuppyCat plush, this is right up your alley. Otherwise, I’d suggest waiting for the trade.

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