Review: Angel Catbird, Vol. 1 (Angel Catbird, #1) by Margaret Atwood & Johnnie Christmas

December 19, 2016 Review 0

Review: Angel Catbird, Vol. 1 (Angel Catbird, #1) by Margaret Atwood & Johnnie ChristmasAngel Catbird Volume 1 by Johnnie Christmas, Margaret Atwood
Series: Angel Catbird #1
Published by Dark Horse Comics on September 6th 2016
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Shifters, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 124
Source: Personal Copy
Reviewed by: Kim
2 Stars

Lauded novelist Margaret Atwood and acclaimed artist Johnnie Christmas collaborate on one of the most highly anticipated comic book and literary events of the year! On a dark night, young genetic engineer Strig Feleedus is accidentally mutated by his own experiment and merges with the DNA of a cat and an owl. What follows is a humorous, action-driven, pulp-inspired superhero adventure-- with a lot of cat puns.

With a big name like Margaret Atwood, I was expecting something a bit more profound from ANGEL CATBIRD, even with the ridiculous title and premise. Unfortunately, I was left incredibly disappointed in what was a predictable, preachy book that although marketed to adults, I wouldn’t recommend to anyone over 13.

If you’ve never read any Margaret Atwood, she’s known for her social commentary, her depictions/discussion of women and being really literary. Most of her books are so in-your-face feminist they can be overwhelming. I would recommend reading ORYX AND CRAKE - and to a lesser extent THE HANDMAID'S TALE - if you like speculative fiction. They both bring up interesting points, and I enjoyed ORYX AND CRAKE.

ANGEL CATBIRD does the opposite of bringing up new and interesting points. There’s a narrow line behind paying homage to a genre and just copying something on every page. Mad scientist with bumbling assistant who gets himself accidentally mutated into a half-animal (well, quarter, but whatever) shifter? Check. Cute babe who knows about the world he’s in and happens to work in his office? Check. A nightclub for shifters hiding in plain sight? Check. It’s all stuff I’ve seen before.

Very little actually happens in the book, apart from Strig trying to get into Cate’s pants and the evil scientist plotting and cackling to his rat minions like a more manic version of WILLARD without any of the heart or acting chops of the movie. Beyond his shift and finding out who the villain is, the plot barely advances.

The most annoying part of this comic has to be the weird “educational” paragraphs at the bottom of many of the pages. “Don’t let your cats outside.” “Spay and neuter your cats.” “Here are some stats about how many birds cats kill in the US, Canada and UK.” These factoids were preachy and felt like they belonged in a book for ten year olds, not the adults the book is marketed towards. I’m not reading a graphic novel to be educated about the number of kittens a female cat can have, Margaret. I want escapism and drama I want adventure and humour. ANGEL CATBIRD delivers none of that.

The art and the colours are great, and I love the art notes at the back of the book. It’s the concept that is childish and doesn’t actually lead to anything. Margaret Atwood said in an interview that she “came up with it around the age of six, when I was drawing flying cats with wings.” It kinda shows. Freaks of nature have such an awesome power to portray human existence in graphic novels, but all this comic does is regurgitate tropes and preach.

The only reason I didn’t give this book a single bat review is the cat to half-cat shifters. Some of the half-cat shifters who hang out at the Cat-astrophe nightclub (really?) are cats first. They cannot become fully human. Likewise, the humans who can become half-cat cannot go full cat. It’s pretty cool, although it raises weird questions about these natural half-cats, who are genetically born and aren’t created by science. There is zero insight into the mythology or history of these shifters, and I have zero interest in finding out more.

There are two other volumes of this graphic novel planned, but I won’t even be glancing at them. I'm just glad I got this title at the library and didn't waste money on it.

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