Paws And Effect
♦Tripwire’s Contributing Writer Olly MacNamee takes a look at the second volume of Dark Horse’s Angel Catbird, by Margaret Atwood and Johnnie Christmas, out from next week…
Angel Catbird: To Castle Catula (Vol.2)
Writer: Margaret Atwood
Art: Johnnie Christmas
Publisher: Dark Horse
By her own admittance in the introduction to Vol. 1, Margaret Atwood (yes, THAT Margaret Atwood), grew up in the Golden Age and Silver Age of comics in Canada. And, as such, this reads very much like a love letter to these whackier, more innocent and therefore more bizarre stories of yesteryear. Stories where humans are transformed through bad science and/or bad joo-joo into mash-up monsters and half-human hero chimeras.
And, even if you haven’t read the first volume, the title itself should be something of a clue. And, like a good Silver Age comic, this is a fun read with some fun characters returning from the first book, while introducing a new set of half-breeds to join in on the adventure. An adventure that follows from what has come before; a mad-scientist who dreams of world domination (don’t they all?) and is himself half rat, I give you Professor Muroid.
Of course, this is as much an exercise in playing with the well worn tropes of comics, Hell, it even has thought balloons, a device often used in the past for clunky exposition more than anything else. And so, we do have a hero transformed, a love interest that could well become a love triangle, and an ever expanding cast of characters including the puntastic Count Catula and the even more ancient, Neferkiti, both with their own tales to tell, if you pardon my own pun. Catula just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, as he set upon by a hungry Dracula, in bat form, both attacking the same vermin in an attempt to stave off starvation after Dracula had gone through all the local virgins.
It’s a book with a knowing wink to the reader and one for all ages. The puns are bordering on the cringe-worthy, but that’s the point. Older readers can groan in unison with the creators, while younger readers can laugh out loud, especially as the level of language used is also very much of the Silver Age and therefore more accessible to a wisder readership. Maybe something to consider when considering how to attract new readers into comics. A writer of Atwood’s reputation isn’t looking to create the next greatest comic book, she’s having fun with the form, the genre, and her literary chops often slither through too. As they set off on their quest, one travelling companion, Catullus, suggests they all trade stories in order for this travelling minstrel to forge an epic poem akin to The Canterbury Tales. Of course, here Catullus is aiming to entitle his magnum opus, Caturbury Tales. You can almost hear the drums behind each pun ‘ba-dum-tss’ in the background.
The art, provided by Johnnie Christmas is controlled and in keeping with the story and the tone, as is the colour work by Tamra Bonvillan. Even in the darkest of forest and on their way to Castle Catula, the colours are not oppressive but still rather light, all blues and greens to mimic the light hearted nature of this story. The characters are cute rather than horrific, and their varied emotions and expressions come through on the faces of each of their characters giving each one a distinct look and character, which could have been hard to sustain given how cat-people could very easily come across as similar I imagine. It’s not colour variation they rely on to differentiate, but really breath life into each one of the growing gang.
Overall, this second volume in an ongoing story (Vol.3 will be out in July) builds on the world of Vol.1, taking it into the wilderness – literally – while expanding on the history of a world in which live, and have always lived it would seem, animals that can transform into half-human/half-animal hybrids or humans that can do exactly that same thing. Linking these with Gothic Horror and even Egyptology is even further testament to Atwood’s joy in mixing up genres as much as she mixes up humans with animals.
And, in the middle of it all is Catbird, our hero, neither of the cat/human world, nor the bird/human world, but possibly a conduit through which unity amongst these diverse groups can be achieved.
An innocent throwback of a book that is as playful as a little kitten and out next week. Don’t forget to purrrcahse one.
Angel Catbird Volume 2 is out from 14 February. Check out our Patreon for an exclusive interview with its artist Johnnie Christmas.