Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Angel Catbird Volume 1

The first volume of a trilogy, Angel Catbird is a superhero comic by way of The Island of Doctor Moreau. It is a compelling, if a little strange, narrative in that it is peppered with service announcements for Nature Canada, a charity which here targets the well-being of cats and birds.
Otherwise, the story reads like a classic superhero yarn from the Golden Age of comics, with an evil scientist and a couple of work colleagues who seem attracted to each other. The artwork is certainly indicative of a superhero story, with bold colors and strong action and costume design. Where the story veers into a different direction is that there are all kinds of animal characteristics at play, so territorial posturing and other biological considerations loom large.
Also, matters quickly dive into a fantastic realm of cat-people, bird-people, and rat-people. Entire hybrid societies are exposed and explored, and there are many fun features in seeing how they live, party, and function. I have to say that I found the whole thing peculiar in a good way, and I may just have to check out what happens in the next two volumes.

One of the most remarkable things about this book is that it was written by Margaret Atwood, a well-respected and awarded author/poet known for the novels The Handmaid's Tale and The Blind Assassin. She includes an interesting essay at the beginning of this book that detail her unlikely decision to get into making comics. The artwork is by Johnnie Christmas and coloring by Tamra Bonvillain. Christmas has worked on a number of comics series, including Firebug (appearing in  Island) and Sheltered. Bonvillain works on many comics series such as Rat Queens, Wayward, and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. Atwood speaks more about her ideas about this book in this interview, and Christmas talks about their collaboration here.

All of the reviews I have read have praised this quirky, strange, and fun book. Etelka Lehoczky wrote that Atwood was "so busy exploring the possibilities of her interspecies world, she neglects to have her hero fight crime. But that's no shortcoming; actually, it may be the smartest way to deal with her themes." Oliver Sava remarked on the beautiful art and coloring and added that the "moments of humor are when Angel Catbird most strongly distinguishes itself from other superhero stories." Scott Stewart summed up simply, "I absolutely loved this book, and can’t wait for volume two to arrive in February 2017."

Angel Catbird was published by Dark Horse, and they have a preview and more available here.

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