December 14, 2010

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Coffee and Donuts

The week of Top Shelf reviews continues!

Written by Max Estes
Illustrated by Max Estes
Top Shelf

Life's not easy for a cat on the street, living from dumpster to dumpster and hoping for a break. When that break turns out to be robbery, things don't go so well, and our not-so-heroic cat ends up on the run, chased by both the police and the underworld. All looks bleak, except for those two staples of the culinary world, coffee and donuts, which just might save the day for our striped tale stray.

The titular food and drink are the unlikely key to everything in this short story from Max Estes. I have to admit, I wasn't really impressed with the other Estes book I read, Hello, Again, but I thought this book was a lot better. The story is still a bit short on cohesion, especially in terms of the climax, but I felt like the main character had more of a reason to be caught in the fix he finds himself in and that made a big difference.

The story in Coffee and Donuts is not unlike a lot of the plots of older black and white comedies. The stray cats could easily be Laurel and Hardy or the Marx Brothers, had the plot held more humor. There are certainly some things to laugh at in Coffee and Donuts, particularly the end lines and the absolute ridiculousness of the robbery itself. However, the book does get caught up a bit because of the line between the serious and the absurd, as though Estes wasn't quite sure which way he wanted to go. I think the book could have been a bit stronger had it been played for straight laughs or as a tragedy. The results we get are certainly enjoyable enough, but it's more in that "heartwarming story" vein than I'm generally comfortable with.

Coffee and Donuts is a cute story that involves vagabond cats that belong to an earlier age. Though I kinda wish it did at times, Estes doesn't try to make anything more out of the book. It was a fun, quick read that will entertain you if you decide to pick it up. Sometimes that's all you need out of a comic, and it's wrong to ask for more. If you want a read that will give you a smile and involves humanized cats, this is definitely a good choice. Just like a donut, this book is a perfect snack--depending on the flavor you need to satisfy your reading apatite.