Have a soft spot for speculative fiction? Enjoy the odd graphic novel? Like cats? Scratch that, do you LOVE cats (Oh, and have a bit of a soft spot for birds of prey)? Well, Margaret Atwood, the Canadian Booker prize-winning author and champion of writing has created the hero and world that you’re craving.
Mild mannered, scientific nerd Strig Feeledus works for Muroid Inc, a slightly shady biotech-esque company. He is tasked by his boss, the rattish Dr. A. Muroid to create a serum to help cure all manner of genetic diseases. When he makes his chemical break-through with a super-splicer serum he, his cat, and a snowy owl are involved in a hit-and-run “accident”. Left for dead in a puddle of the serum with the corpses of the owl and his much-loved pet, Strig is reborn as Angel Catbird who can change into a superhero: part cat, part owl. He becomes embroiled in helping love interest half-cat, half-human Cate Leone who leads a cadre of half-cats to fight against Dr. Muroid and his tech-enhanced rat army.
There are obvious comic book and superhero tropes at work in this first volume from Atwood - the heroes and villains of the piece are easy to spot - but that’s OK. This is a graphic novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously, it doesn’t have a twisty-turny plot, and it’s not as politically astute as many of Atwood’s other works. It IS great fun and gorgeously drawn by Christmas and inked by Tamra Bonvillian. There are cat facts and cat tips alongside the plot provided by Nature Canada which nod to Atwood’s conservation and environmental concerns. At the end there is also an insight into the process of how the team created and developed the characters, which is a neat touch by the team at Dark Horse.
There are parallels with Robert C. O’Brien’s Rats of Nimh and Robert Jarvis’s Deptford Mice: while the violence and body count is minimal it may be a little bit scary for little ones to read.
Angel Catbird is a lovely introduction to graphic novels for the cat-loving young person in your life. And it’s out right meow…er, we mean, now.
ANGEL CATBIRD / AUTHOR: MARGARET ATWOOD /ARTISTS: JOHNNY CHRISTMAS, TAMRA BONVILLIAN / PUBLISHER: DARK HORSE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW