Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Margaret Atwood
Artist: Johnnie Christmas
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Release Date: 14th February, 2017
The second volume of iconic author Margaret Atwood’s Angel Catbird captures the same sense of fun which permeated the first book, but while Atwood feels noticeably more comfortable in the world she has created here, there’s still a slight awkwardness to the narrative and dialogue which feels at odds with her unquestioned writing talents.
The story here, such as it is, sees genetic engineer Strig Feleedus – the titular Angel Catbird – and his band of half-cats allies accompanying Count Catula to his castle to set up a new base of operations in their ongoing war against evil half-rat Professor Muroid. Along the way they meet some interesting characters, battle some rats, and exchange all manner of cat and bird-related gags and banter.
It’s a fun enough story, but I can’t help but think that the impressive success of this Dark Horse series might be more down to the name value (and unbridled awesomeness) of its writer rather than the actual content of the books. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some enjoyable moments in this second volume, but it all just feels a little slight, y’know? Not that I’m expecting epic, sprawling drama and nuanced character development in an all-ages fantasy about cats and birds, but this latest chapter really struggles to advance anything in a meaningful way, sacrificing storyline progress at the altar of glacial world-building and, y’know, cat puns.
Thankfully, the artistic partnership of Johnnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillain do a fantastic job with the visual side of the book, lifting the overall appeal of this volume considerably. Christmas utilises a delicate approach to his linework, giving the proceedings an air of legitimacy that a heavy-handed, ‘cartoony’ approach wouldn’t, and providing all manner of eye-catching character designs along the way. Bonvillain’s colours are also typically impressive, with a bright, vibrant colour palette that ebbs and flows with the story itself.
One of the better things about the series are the brief ‘cat trivia’ asides which Atwood punctuates her story with, providing interesting factual context (with links!) for the exaggerated events of the book. It’s a neat touch that will definitely play well with younger readers (or cat fans), and while it doesn’t necessarily enhance the story in any noticeable way, it still provides an added layer of depth to the proceedings.
Ultimately though, there’s no getting away from the fact that there’s still not a lot actually happening here aside from the introduction of the aforementioned new faces, leaving this second volume feeing a little bit like ‘filler’ – which is something of a concern considering this series is, I believe, and only set to run for three volumes.
Ultimately, if you enjoyed the first volume of Angel Catbird then you’ll definitely enjoy the second as it delivers more of the same feline-themed shenanigans and zany world-building, all wrapped up in a bright, colourful package. Is it perfect? No, not by a long shot. But for an easily consumable slice of high-concept all-ages fantasy packed with cat puns and feline trivia, you could definitely do a lot worse.
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