Monday 21 September 2020

Little Bird by Darcy Van Poelgeest and Ian Bertram

 "Choose your life carefully, Little Bird."

Ahhh that exciting, sometimes infuriating alchemy in comics regarding what illustrations bring to the writing. A good story is a good story, but excellent art will lift all levels of writing – it is, after all, a visual medium. In Little Bird (Image Comics), the writing by Darcy Van Poelgeest is very good. It’s a story that feels both large in scale, but also intensely personal for the titular protagonist, mixing her role in building a resistance against a violent oppressive regime with her discovery about her bloody heritage. With an opening which drops you at a crucial point, a la Star Wars, and never really lets up, the storytelling is brilliantly concise but never rushed – there’s a confidence here that belies the fact that this is Van Poelgeest’s first work in comics.

With all the nightmarish violence, themes of religion and the fact that it's science fiction, it’s a story that could have come from the mind of Alejandro Jodorowsky. But just as Jodorowsky was blessed to work with the extraordinary illustrator Moebius, artist Ian Bertram has really elevated Little Bird into something special. Reminiscent of Frank Quitely but with added expressionism, the art is detailed with delicate line-work but always manages to convey energy and movement and weight. The sequential art storytelling is also exemplary; there is one plot-point that had me re-reading the pages to marvel at how beautifully it was executed. All elements to the story are enhanced, whether it’s the violence (bloody and extreme), the horror (lots of entrails, religious imagery and those spooky eyes), suspense, or the moments of dream-like surrealism. At the same time, Bertram has designed a world that looks other-worldly yet Earthly, ancient but futuristic.

The one niggle is a visually slightly messy cover to this edition, but otherwise this is an stunning example of the medium, deservedly winning an Eisner award for best limited series.

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