Thursday, September 1, 2016

Review - Angel Catbird Volume 1 (@DarkHorseComics)


"No, you stay inside. You're an indoor kitty."

Pets make life better for their owners. There's an emotional component where the owner gets companionship and a physical component where pet microbes reinforce our immune systems. Angel Catbird Volume 1 from Dark Horse Comics takes that notion of betterment to the extreme by merging pet and owner together. The book is written by Margaret Atwood, illustrated by Johnnie Christmas, colored by Tamra Bonvillain and lettered by Nate Piekos.

A young genetic engineer is accidentally mutated by his own experiment when his DNA is merged with that of a cat and an owl. What follows is a humorous, action-driven, pulp-inspired superhero adventure-with a lot of cat puns.

Atwood gives the reader plenty to unpack in Angel Catbird Volume 1, presenting a protagonist in Strig Feleedus who is every bit as mild-mannered and awkward as Peter Parker is. Moving the events through Strig is a nod to superhero tales of a different time in comics as Atwood emphasizes Strig as the key to the entire story. There's not a lot of time wasted by Atwood in setting up the other key players and the stakes they're all playing with and she jumps right into giving the reader a superhero origin story of sorts with plenty of humor mixed in for good measure. Atwood's dialogue is engaging and somewhat aloof in some regards, but it works very well to set the tone for the story. And the first volume is just that--a volume--that packs in plenty of material to get the reader interested and determined to find out more.

The artistic approach taken by Christmas emphasizes the animal characteristics that people may sport. It's often been said that pet owners look like their pets and that saying is being emulated by Christmas in illustrating the characters with animalistic sensibilities and tendencies. This approach allows Christmas to get creative with the characters and present them to the reader in a way that makes their plights more believable. He doesn't spend too much time focused on the details of the characters; rather, he instead focuses on defining them with clean lines and a minimalist approach. Bonvillain's color palette is bright and bold, filling out the world with a lot life.

Angel Catbird Volume 1 wears cheekiness on its sleeve, fully embracing the somewhat ludicrous proposition that a man could turn into a bird-cat hybrid because of a chemical mishap. Strig is the lead in a cast of characters who all have their secrets and watching the untangle around one another will be fun. Atwood's script is light and humorous, adding some levity to what could otherwise be a pretty dour story. Christmas' illustrations are simple yet engaging, effectively presenting the notion that there's an animal inside all of us. Angel Catbird Volume 1 is a great start to a throwback tale of sorts that leaves plenty hanging for the second volume to resolve.

Angel Catbird Volume 1 is in stores September 6.

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