Angel Catbird Volume One
By Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas (Sheltered) and Tamra Bonvillain (Rat Queens)
Well-known poet and novelist, of both fiction and nonfiction, Margaret Atwood delves into comic books after a lengthy and successful career as an author. Atwood’s idea for her debut comic, Angel Catbird, seemingly came before her desire to create a graphic novel, which is fortunate for fans of the medium who have grown weary of folks who think they can easily segue on a whim. But now Margaret Atwood can confidently add comics to a life already full of accomplishments in writing, because Angel Catbird is a triumph. This fall the first volume will be released with the promise of a second and third already underway. Thanks to the first part in the series and a thorough set up, volume two will likely be able to thrive without a need to explain things each step of the way. We now know who’s who and we know what’s at stake going forward.
The premise is refreshingly hilarious and completely unrealistic, but it works thanks to a fully committed story that never winks at the reader. It’s written in a believable manner – no matter how crazy things get – and as long as the characters are onboard the reader will be too. Essentially it’s a story that belongs in a comic book, rather than a comic book story. It’s a subtle but impactful fact that makes this book a success in the same way a Saturday morning cartoon works for kids. The more you read the more you believe. That said, this isn’t necessarily a kids book – young adult sure, but kids maybe not.
It doesn’t give anything away to say that the story deals with a metamorphosis: a man changing into a half-cat with wings. In doing so the man tunes into all of the things that a cat feels including the allure of a female cat. Things stop short of getting too frisky, but all the same, it leaves the door open for potentially adult themed plot lines. Ultimately Angel Catbird is refreshingly honest, liberal and articulate in it’s telling. Fans of reads that are this over the top, without losing sight of the story’s moral, will surely dig this book.
There’s a huge amount of supplemental work in the back of the book, which shines a light on the art process. You get pages and pages of character design and layout stuff that more than does its part to fill the void after you finish the story. There are also a bunch of really good pin ups by various artists, but, look…it’d be a real shame if the art team of Johnnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillain was split up in future volumes. Their collaborative effort is both fun and exciting and what really lets this book soar. They offer a mainstream quality that should make regular comic book readers feel right at home with a subject matter that’s a few steps away from a typical mainstream comic book storyline. Johnnie Christmas draws with a dial that can be cranked up when necessary or toned down when appropriate. He brings a believable quality to the characters, no matter their stage of metamorphosis, to the point where you recognize them before during and after their respective evolutions. It is extremely well done. Bonvillain’s bright, dynamic colors and painterly backgrounds are soothing and realistic, which allow us to clasp onto the concept, and hold on tight while suspending our disbelief and falling in love with yet another graphic novel. This time it’s Angel Catbird.
Do yourself a favor and don’t skip this book when it hits shelves this September. And keep an eye out for Volume 2 in the early part of the New Year. Oh, and welcome Margaret Atwood, it’s a pleasure to meet you!