Angel Catbird Vol. 2: To Castle Catula (Dark Horse)

There’s not a lot of action in this volume, but it’s always loads of fun and positively jam-packed with puns, fun facts about birds and cats, and social commentary.

80 pgs., color; $10.99

(W: Margaret Atwood; A: Johnnie Christmas)

It’s not every day that you come across a graphic novel like Angel Catbird, but then it’s not every day that a graphic novel is written by a Booker Prize winner. That would be Margaret Atwood (who was actually nominated for the Booker Prize five times, winning in 2002 for her novel The Blind Assassin), who teamed up with artist Johnnie Christmas to create the story of a superhero who’s part bird, part cat, and part human, and has to deal with all the contradictions of his various natures while also fighting the evil half-rat Dr. Muroid and his minions.

In case you missed volume 1, genetic engineer Strig Feleedus was transformed into Angel Catbird after he and his cat Ding (short for “Schrödinger’s cat”) were hit by a car. In his new form, he has the wings of a bird, the intelligence of a human, and the teeth, claws, and vision of a cat. After his transformation, Angel Catbird discovers that the world is positively full of human-animal hybrids, and also that there’s a whole social world just for half-cats (I’m saying “half” for convenience, since many of whom actually have three parts, like Strig).

Volume 2 picks up just after the destruction of the cats’ nightclub, Catastrophe, which they were planning to use as a base of operations to fight Dr. Muroid and his world-domination ambitions. As they head to Castle Catula (if you don’t like cat puns, best to avoid this series altogether), a new hero joins their band: Athena-Owl. She immediately makes a play for Angel Catbird, much to the dismay of his current squeeze, Cate. Ooh, catfight! (Sorry.)

Meanwhile, Dr. Muroid continues to work with his army of robotically controlled rats, plus his new toy, the drat (drone rat), which looks as silly as it sounds. We also get a lot of Count Catula’s backstory, along with some revisionist Egyptian history, and the cats acquire a new recruit in the form of an abandoned kitten named Fog (which, as we know, comes in on little cat feet).

There’s not a lot of action in this volume of Angel Catbird, but it’s always loads of fun and positively jam-packed with puns, fun facts about birds and cats, and social commentary. What’s truly amazing is that it manages all these things while also telling a story and retaining the feel of a Silver Age comic. Much credit for the latter goes to the art of Johnnie Christmas, which gets the job done without ever feeling too arty. When your hero is a person/cat/bird, it’s important to catch that “super” vibe without getting pretentious, and Christmas does this perfectly. He also avoids the temptation of commenting ironically on the story, instead letting it play out on its own terms. Tamra Bonvillain’s colors complement the story and art, frequently using a blue-tinted palette appropriate to the nocturnal habits of cats.

Extras included with Angel Catbird vol. 2: To Castle Catula include an introduction by G. Willow Wilson (writer of, among other things, the current incarnation of Ms. Marvel), and lots of bonus art.  According to Amazon, it’s appropriate for grades 3 through 7, while Dark Horse lists the age range as 10. In either case, it’s kid-safe and might a good gift for a young animal lover (and rest assured, it can also be enjoyed by mature adults such as myself). You can see a preview here. | Sarah Boslaugh

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