Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews—now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Little Bird’ issues #1 & #2, out March 13 and April 17 respectively, from Image Comics.

Little Bird
Cover to ‘Little Bird’ #1. Art by Ian Bertram and Matt Hollingsworth/Image Comics

by Arpad Okay. Little Bird, a little girl, might not be the one to wield the axe or incinerate her rivals, she might mostly run away and thrash out against responsibility when cornered, but she is still this sick world’s savior. Pitted against her is the crazy murder cult that is the North American Christian nation of the future. Monstrous creations, soulless executions, deranged religious leaders. God makes a comeback as the blood-soaked imperialist (what else is new).

But Canada’s greatest superhero has got Little Bird’s back, and an organized opposition force of First Nation people turned into warriors over real estate and cultural preservation are here to keep the Christian killing machines in check (what else is new). These indigenous people are the last of us carrying the banner of revolution. They are the only ones tuned in to the spirit world, and the word there is “destiny.”

Little Bird is a bit of well-cloaked high fantasy. Its ideas are drawn from our world, but Little Bird is our myths, not our lives. The mirror pointed the other way in time, not swords and sorcery but bullets and the ballot. We recognize the hot mess because we live it, too. The church. Prison. Power. And, the stuff of our dreams: superheroes, killer robots, resistance armies.

Darcy Van Poelgeest deals in apocalypse satire. Think Verhoven thirty years ago wielding the deadpan lance. Did I say high fantasy? Little Bird is doing science fiction’s job: taking the problems of now and pushing them into the future to see how bad they get. Picturing the violent, the profane, and doing it with a laugh. See with the open eyes of a fool. Stare into the abyss that is man’s inhumanity towards himself.

Revel in some truly unique character looks. Think the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ rogues gallery if it were published by Heavy Metal Magazine instead of Archie Comics, if it were made for Liquid Television and not Saturday morning. The facepaint, outfits, and hair, the cloaks and masks and gauntlets. Simple, iconic uniforms rendered grim and serious, childishly adult.

Ian Bertram makes magic of Little Bird with his indomitable, sketchy style. Moebius slightly reigned in, a comparison I make in no small part because of Bertram’s spidery linework, flecks of texture, cartoonish-yet-disquieting figures, dark future imagination. Huge, almond eyes with dot pupils and tiny facial features. Tendrils, ghost trees and tentacle baths, little floating parsons made out of intestine and clockwork knives. Splatter and gore, thick blood like paint, scar tissue and sweat. This is what Bertram does best, and Little Bird serves his kind of chum by the bucketful.

Matt Hollingsworth paints the page with muted, warm colors. He doubles down on the skinny unease that comes from Bertram’s Gahan Wilson monsters-for-children drawing style by playing by the same New Yorker palette color rules. They strike a gentle harmony, Hollingsworth’s touch pushing all the gooey bits over the top without overwhelming the viewer or the illustrations.

Is it Van Poelgeest or Bertram who broke my brain with their layouts for this comic? Mostly panoramic stacks, page-width panels with occasional breaks to accentuate timing. Essentially a layer cake of long takes. Then the shit hits the fan and chaos erupts. The action sequences eviscerate the rules, shatter the page into a hundred shards. The story is told in a blender of violence, complete with meaty frothing spilling into the gutters. A kaleidoscopic counterpoint to the steady march that paces the rest of the book. In a word: madness.

So. Terroristic religious powers using completely unholy means to conquer the continent. Simple, spiritual heroes in opposition. What Little Bird really is, though, is a metaphor for parenthood. First, the false narrative of the father nation deciding what’s best for the “underdeveloped” child nation. The clash of autonomy against authority. If God’s country is paternal dominance, Little Bird is righteous riot grrrl rebellion.

More than that, Little Bird is about actual parenthood. The mother-daughter relationship measured by time and distance. The mother leads by example, serves as a spirit guide. Both lead a life linked but independent. Father-son is the shadowy reflection of this, care is absent but still declared as love. Love dependent on predetermined conditions being met. Love as ownership.

Then, the assembled group. Little Bird, the Axe, Captain Evans, Elders, all those people of the Rockies that fate has thrown in together. The Resistance. Destiny’s family.

Little Bird, a fascinating fable writ strong and deep and illustrated tremendously. Tumultuous, depraved, and striking. Weird characters, stranger story, lots of interesting innovations regarding the writing of comics. It works as fantasy, it works as science fiction, as politics, as satire, as future anthropology. All in all, Little Bird stands out as fresh, urgent, nuanced, and essential reading.

Image Comics/$3.99 each

Written by Darcy Van Poelgeest.

Art by Ian Bertram.

Colors by Matt Hollingsworth.

Letters by Aditya Bidikar.

Design by Ben Didier.

9 out of 10

‘Little Bird’ #1 hits stores March 13. ‘Little Bird’ #2 is out April 17. The final order cutoff deadline for comics shop retailers is Monday, February 18. (Diamond Code JAN190099)

The digital edition of ‘Little Bird’ #1 & #2 will also be available for purchase on the official Image Comics iOS app, Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, comiXology, and Google Play.

Check out this five-page preview of ‘Little Bird’ #1, courtesy of Image Comics!

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