Initially released as a series of web comics through female-centric publisher Emet Comics, Finding Molly: An Adventure in Catsitting follows the titular Molly as she navigates the personal and professional mine fields that await most twenty-somethings post-graduation. Once billed as a rising star in the art world, Molly has hit a bit of a rut. While her friends are off living the bohemian art life she always dreamed of, Molly is unemployed and unmotivated, stuck living at home with her ever cheerful mother, marriage pushing father and mewing puff ball, Pishi. With options low and self respect dipping even lower, Molly grudgingly accepts a request for a cat sitter, setting off an endearing, if fortuitous, adventure of meows, muses, and self discovery.
For anyone who has struggled with that what-next conundrum or, perhaps more importantly, for anyone who has known cats, Justine Prado clearly knows her stuff. The writer/creator does an excellent job at the onset of injecting the life in this slice-of-life tale, her characters and situations at once real and relatable. Despite us being told that Molly was more or less an artistic prodigy, the early going paints a very different and far more approachable picture. She's a woman loaded with talent but bereft of direction, someone whose overwhelming desire to prove her worth keeps her perpetually locked in place. Prado uses a few clumsy bouts of exposition to set that frame initially, but from there she does fantastic work in rolling out the characters day to day struggles with identity in a much more organic matter.
That continued sense of growth is what ultimately proves to be the book's main emotional pull. The book’s early developments are more tell than show, Prado establishing the various characters and defining motivations but not giving us quite enough to fully buy into them. But over the course of the series Prado, much like Molly herself, begins to figure it out, the identity and confidence of the read growing with every seeming turn of the page. Blind luck still plays a role in Molly's rise, but she ultimately earns every advantage that comes her way, Prado's themes of perseverance and inner drive working in concert with Molly's steady emotional development. Similarly, Prado's consistent use of cats as creative outlets works better and better as time goes by. Cat gals and guys will delight in the myriad ways Prado uses her furry felines, but even those self-proclaimed dog people will be hard pressed to avoid their obvious charms.
Speaking of charm - for as well developed as Prado's characters are, and for as relatable as her narrative is, this book would not work nearly as well without artist Jenn St-Onge and colorist Carey Pietsch. This is a gorgeous read in every sense of the word, each and every page brimming with character and life. Following a single character on the path to self discovery is an investment, and St-Onge and Pietsch ensure that no panel of that journey is wasted. St-Onge's cartoony style is deceptively complex - she doesn't go overboard with extraneous lines and details because she doesn't need to, relying instead on exceptional posturing and expression to tell her wordless story.
Her character models are equally stunning, but it's the way they evolve that really impresses. Not only are her characters diverse in race and shape, but they're also never the same from day to day, with completely different outfits, hairstyles, and even makeup. And no one gets more of that focused attention than Molly. From frumpy, tousled locks at 3am to professional dress that still shows off her striking red streak, she's a living and breathing person in St-Onge's eye. She's so good in fact that letterer Joyana McDiarmid at times seems to struggle with bubble placement, so hesitant is she to block any of St-Onge's endearing visuals. Pietsch likewise proves an excellent fit, her warm hues and gorgeous background work only enhancing St-Onge's visceral pull. To put it simply, they're a purr-fect pair.
Taking a character-first approach to storytelling, Finding Molly: An Adventure in Catsitting is an entertaining and easily digestible read. In Molly, Prado has a character whose highs and lows are worth following, a feeling only furthered by the personality St-Onge and Pietsch imbue with their vivid art. In a medium dominated by the belief that bigger-is-better, this book stands apart as something wholly unique and well worth your purrusal.
Though digital at the start, Finding Molly: An Adventure in Catsitting is a series well deserving of a print following. It’s smart, funny, with just the right amount of heart, a combo made all the more effective by the excellent trio of Justine Prado, Jenn St-Onge and Carey Pietsch. With a well developed sense of character and some truly wonderful art, Molly’s early adventures are at once entertaining and relatable. And with a team like this only set to get better, we look forward to following them and Molly through further meowsadventures down the line.