Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Darcy Van Poelgeest
Artwork: Ian Bertram
Colours: Matt Hollingsworth
Lettering: Aditya Bidikar
Release Date: March 13th 2019
LITTLE BIRD, a brand new Image Comics series from Darcy Van Poelgeest and Ian Bertram, sets out its stall fairly emphatically during the first few pages of the first issue, thrusting the reader headlong into a bitter, violent war between the determined Canadian Resistance and the fiercely theocratic United Nations of America.
We get to see these traumatic events unfold through the eyes of Little Bird, the daughter of the resistance leader, and everything is suitably gritty and tense for the most part. However, about midway through the issue, Bertram and Van Poelgeest pull back the curtain on the truly disturbing inhabitants of “New Vatican”, kicking the story into a whole new gear packed with grotesqueries, ugly ultra-nationalism and giant, axe-wielding behemoths.
LITTLE BIRD is a curious creation, blending gritty realism with ancient mysticism, disturbing body horror and violent excess. I’m a big fan of comics that don’t fit neatly into established genres, and that’s exactly what Van Poelgeest and Bertram have created here. There are faint allusions to current real-world events, but everything is handled with an impressively light touch, leaving the characters and the striking visuals to carry the weight of the narrative themselves.
Speaking of the visuals, Bertram’s artwork is an absolute feast for the eyes here with its mixture of genuinely unsettling visual design and almost obsessive levels of detail. Blending the very best of Frank Quitely and Geof Darrow while giving it his own unique spin, Bertram starts off relatively restrained with an immaculate-yet-grounded recreation of the UNA’s assault on the resistance. However, it isn’t long before he cuts loose, delivering some of the same grotesquely twisted character designs that made his work on Dark Horse’s House of Penance so utterly captivating.
The action moments are perfectly choreographed and the violence is almost shockingly brutal at times, with Bertram clearly pouring absolutely everything he has into every single panel. Supremely talented colourist Matt Hollingsworth brings things to life impressively with a palette that ebbs and flows as the story dictates, taking us from the desolate Canadian Rockies to the stark, sterile prisons of New Vatican, and underscoring the violence with an increasingly striking use of yellows and reds. Letterer Aditya Bidikar also deserves a ton of credit for knocking it out of the park with the lettering, with a creative use of font styles and some wonderful placement that really helps to underscore the layouts of each page.
The level of world building on display in this first issue is truly impressive, but never feels like it gets in the way of the ongoing narrative. If anything, this serves as a relatively gentle (if incredibly violent) introduction into the world that Van Poelgeest and Bertram have created, and should help to whet the reader’s appetite and spark their curiosity about finding out more about the intriguing characters and situations they encounter here. Particularly given the shocking moment which occurs just a few pages from the end of the issue.
Every so often a comic comes along that grabs you from the get-go, either with its unconventional creativity, its striking originality or its passionate execution. Or, in the case of LITTLE BIRD, with all three. An utterly fascinating, gorgeously illustrated opening salvo in what promises to be a savage assault on the senses, this is a new series I simply can’t recommend highly enough.