Writer: Darcy Van Poelgeest
Illustrator: Ian Bertram
Publisher: Image Comics
WHAT IS IT?
The third issue in a new dystopian science fiction 5-issue miniseries about a young girl who sets out to save the world against an evil, hyper-religious army of American invaders.
It feels a little like The Handmaid's Tale politically, but there are so many surreal elements and war themes that take it in a darkly science fiction territory.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
The plans to overthrow the evil American forces are set in motion!
Little Bird and The Axe separate. The former stays behind at Elder's Hope to keep an eye on The Crusader, take out some soldiers and buy the latter time to destroy the Northern Guard. Whether the plan will come to fruition is anyone's guess.
And while The Axe is away, Little Bird learns a family secret that sets the stage for the rest of the series.
The opening monologue ties with the issue's closing monologue, bookending the issue nicely.
I think it's an interesting touch avoiding the use of traditional names for the characters. I didn't notice it before, but most of the names in the series seem earned: Sergeant, Axe, Reverend, Bishop, Crusader. In my opinion, I think it works for the type of story it is – one that seems like it's been passed down, or like it's meant to be. Tales like that often use archetypical representation for its characters, rather than a name whose meaning is likely to change from person to person. That being said, there's a definite significance to the characters who do get names. Pay attention to who gets names and who gets titles.
The lovechild of Daniel Warren Johnson and Moebius, Ian Bertram's illustration work is organic and futuristic, meticulously detailed and finely inked. Keep an eye out for little details, like The Axe's watch falling off in one scene.
The Sergeant's introduction panel and his pose feels so iconic and timeless, it'll burn itself into your memory. We get to see some of those tendrils from the series covers here, replacing parts of his body. Without even diving into his backstory, we can tell he's a survivor from all those missing or replaced body parts.
Bertram's use of panels to create pace and action is second-to-none. In this issue, he plays with it even more. Extending panel border whitespace to build tension. Dividing one panel into multiple for pacing’s sake. Having an insert shot within a panel shaped like an exclamation point. There’s such an understanding of the medium and how to use it to effect how the story is read.
There's a charm to the hilltop shantytown of Fort Sask, with its glowing lights and sagging architecture.
Matt Hollingsworth hits the contrasting colors hard this issue. Sickly, dry yellow against an almost neon blue or powdery purple. The pop of scarlet in the center of a bed of forest green. The cold dark of the underground vs. the abruptly blinding light of scorched land.
This issue, I especially loved letterer Aditya Bidikar's wave effect given to the Sergeant's drunken dialogue, the empty word balloon showing a death rattle, and continue to love the hand-drawn sound effect work that matches the book's style so well, I can no longer truly tell if he or Ian Bertram did them.
The creative team also seems to be working together closely to create this book. It doesn't feel like an assembly-line-created comic, but more like something each member of the team agreed upon and set forth to bring to life.
Van Poelgeest knows how to tell a good story. The first issue set the hook. The second established the foundation. This issue marks the halfway point, and the point of no return for Little Bird. It blazes ahead toward resolution through a possible revolution, and we sit, enrapt, hoping Axe and Little Bird are successful.
Ben Didier's elegant design work is iconic both in the logo design and in the book's little flourishes, elevating the title that much more. He created it to look like if a child designed a death metal logo. It's a really cool concept.
The red glowing tendrils make their appearance on the cover of each issue, rising higher and higher. We see a little more of them this issue. I'm not sure if we'll get any explanation as to what they are, or their significance, but they seem to be slowly swallowing up our characters.
The A12 soldiers are grotesque, looming and terrifying things. The foreboding, alien feeling they give off is so heavy.
There's such an evil cognitive dissonance between the final words of the issue and their accompanying actions, it'll make you shudder.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Graphic violence means it may not be for all readers
There are no intentions of collecting the series into a trade paperback in the near future. However, they do plan to release a hardcover collection of the issues. Purchasing the individual issues remains the most cost-effective way to read the issues, and the individual issues also have bonus material that won't be in the collected edition, so do consider picking them up. Also, it sounds like they're reprinting the first 2 issues, so shouldn't have too hard of a time finding them!
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Little Bird is a visual feast in every page turn, from Ian Bertram's meticulous, stunning illustration to Matt Hollingsworth's ethereal colors.
And though this story is dystopian sci-fi with many surreal elements, it's grounded in current events, working on many different levels.
Little Bird will envelop you, wrapping you up in its beautiful, dangerous world. Easily one of the top 10 comics of 2019.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
We Stand On Guard by Brian K. Vaughan & Steve Skroce
East of West, Vol. 1 by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta
Monstress, Vol. 1 by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda
If you like the art:
Bowery Boys by Cory Levine, Ian Bertram & Brent David McKee
The Incal by Alejandro Jodorowsky & Moebius
Extremity, Vol. 1 by Daniel Warren Johnson
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Darcy Van Poelgeest – Writer
New Face: This is his first comic
Multitalented: Also an award-winning film writer and director
Outlander: Lives in Vancouver
Ian Bertram – Illustrator
Award Winner: was chosen as the Best New Talent of 2011 by Comicbookjesus.com
His unique style uses thousands of markings to form a greater
Matt Hollingsworth – Colorist
Prolific: Has worked in the industry for decades
Dream Team: Has worked with some of the biggest names and titles in comics (Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Rick Remender)
Outlander: Left America and moved to Croatia in 2006
Aditya Bidikar – Letterer
Multitalented: Co-hosts a comics podcast with fellow letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, called Letters & Lines
Enjoys hand-drawing his sound effects
Sometimes hosts a #LettererJam event on Twitter where letters all show their different approaches to a single page of comic book art
Ben Didier – Designer
Multitalented: Also works as a graphic designer, letterer and illustrator
Outlander: Like Darcy Van Poelgeest, he also lives in Vancouver
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