New from Dark Horse Books comes the creative concoction of Angel Catbird. Man Booker Award-winner Margret Atwood, best known for her novels such as The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin, teamed up with Johnnie Christmas (Sheltered) and colorist Tamra Bonvillain (Doom Patrol) for her highly anticipated first graphic novel.
Atwood was recently named the recipient of the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize for her political and environmental activism. For this new title, Dark Horse Books is working with Keep Cats Safe and Save Bird Lives, an initiative led by the oldest Canadian conservation charity, Nature Canada. This group urges cat owners to not let their cats roam freely outside in order to keep cats and birds safe. A few of the pages in the graphic novel include facts and statistics provided by Nature Canada about the dangers of having your cat live outdoors.
Angel Catbird is the story of Strig Feleedus, a genetic engineer trying to figure out the last piece of a formula for his boss, Dr. Muriod. He finally solves it, but soon accidentally spills it while chasing after his cat, Ding. The formula crashes to the ground and spills all over Ding, Strig and onto an owl who flew too close by. Strig then turns into a man with large wings, talons for feet, a cat tail and cat-like facial features. He flies around town having fun, but the next morning he wakes up believing it was all a dream. To his surprise it was all real and chaos ensues.
We find out that in this world there are some people that can transform into cat- and rat-human hybrids and also cats into half-humans. The quick explanation we get is that the people are able to transform due to their genetics. Although this isn’t the case with Angel Catbird, he seems to be shockingly unsurprised to learn that there are half-cat people.
I’m not completely in love with the art, but what can I say? Art is important to me! The art in Angel Catbird wasn’t a deal breaker for me, but there are many parts where the art looked rushed and unfinished. However, Bonvillain did a wonderful job as colorist with the bright colors and the shading.
The pacing of the comic itself seemed to read too fast. It jumped from event to event fairly quickly, which isn’t always a bad thing, but personally I would’ve liked the pacing to be a bit slower. I wanted there to be more to the story, more dialogue, instead of just, “We’re here and now we’re here.” The pacing makes perfect sense when you think about Atwood growing up and reading comics in the 1940s because comic books back then had a similar pacing.
I loved reading the inner monologue of Strig and his coworker, Cate, after his accident. Atwood was able to perfectly combine the wants of a cat while still having human tendencies. Strig thinks, “I need to rub my face against her. I need to! No! Don’t be a jerk!” There were also a few cat puns, because how could you not have cat puns in this kind of story? Honestly, it could have used more puns! With a story that’s this reminiscent to Golden Age comics it would have been totally acceptable to be super cheesy. I did like how in this story rats are the bad guys. Obviously everyone always assumes that when there’s a story about cats and rats the felines will be the villains, but in Angel Catbird the tables are turned.
One thing that I was confused about was the character Count Catula, who is part cat, part bat and part vampire. He just seemed very random in this modern world. He appears in the story and helps out. I’m hoping Count Catula will have more of a background story in the next volume.
The back of the volume includes beautiful artwork for Angel Catbird covers by David Mack, Jen Martel, Matt Kindt and Fábio Moon. There are also sketches of all the designs of the characters. It was really interesting to see the process of each character.
There are a lot of random things that happen in this graphic novel. Overall, I feel that there are a lot of questions to be answered, and hopefully they will be answered in the next volume. I am intrigued to know what happens, so I think I’ll be reading the next one just to find out if any of these questions get answered.
Angel Catbird will be a 3-volume series of 6 x 9 full color hardcovers, priced at $14.99 each. Volume 1 goes on sale on September 6, followed by Volume 2 on February 14, 2017.