As one of 2016’s most hotly anticipated graphic novels, Dark Horses’ ‘Angel Catbird’ tells the story of Strig Feleedus, a genetic engineer working on a gene-splicing serum that could revolutionise the medical industry and save countless lives in the process. Unbeknownst to Strig, his superior would rather have the serum completed to further his nefarious plot to convert the human race into rats!
With a name like Angel Catbird, and a plot like the one described above, I was certain I was going to be all in on this book. I mean, Angel Catbird, for flips’ sake! Sadly, it just wasn’t for me. Whilst Johnnie Christmas’ artwork and complimetary colours by Tamra Bonvillain are bold and exciting, the story is tonally bizarre. Literary icon Margaret Atwood turns her attentions from novels to comics, and uses Angel Catbird as a platform to both pay homage to the comics she loved when she was younger and to raise awareness of the difficulties and dangers facing cats and birds in our modern society. She accomplishes the latter using factoids along the bottom of select pages, which only really serve to pull you away from the story and make you a bit sad about how many cats get hit by cars… Juxtapose this with owl-cat-human hybrid flying about and you’ve got one very confusing comic. There’s a subplot about Strig, after his incredibly comic-book-staple-ish accident that leaves him catbirdly, having a bunch of rather…’in heat’ style urges, that would’ve been quite humourous if they hadn’t occasionally been accompanied by sad bird-related statistics…
The artwork is where the book really shines; Christmas has a knack of capturing the beauty of Strig’s first flight as an owlish catman, whilst also capturing some wonderfully realistic facial expressions and quirks.
To give it it’s due, I’m not really sure I’m really the target audience for this comic. It has the retro feel of a comic that’s homaging the comics of the 40s and 50s that Atwood grew up with, which is entirely outside of my wheelhouse. I think it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of those sorts of comics, or the more modern comics with a retro twang, but sadly I don’t feel that it has much to offer me.
Title: Angel Catbird Volume 1
Publisher: Dark Horse
Reviewer: Stacey Taylor (@StaceysParlour)