Hybrid human animals are nothing new to comics, but when a genetic splicing experiment goes wrong in Angel-Catbird #1, meek programmer Strig Feleedus finds out that there are definite pros and cons to becoming a hybrid. Hired by the shadowy Muroid Inc to perfect a genetic algorithm, he quickly realizes there’s something a bit off about his boss Muroid and something oh so right about his female colleague Cate Leone.
Cate, it turns out, is from a long line of shape-shifters and she serves not just as Strig’s love interest in Angel-Catbird, but as a half-cat she also helps corral the gang of lunk-headed, exotic cat/humans. A peculiar group that includes the hybrid cat/person/bat Count Catula.
Strig transforms into a human/cat/owl creature, much to his surprise. Then rats start to show up at the cat’s exclusive nightclub the Catastrophe and things get out of hand: It turns out that the rats are controlled by Muroid, who is half-rat himself. He’s more than a bit crazy, rubbing his hands together in glee as he proceeds with his plans for total world domination. Um, his Plan for Total World Domination, with the help of his little rat people. And there’s no space for cats in a world run by rats, that’s for sure.
Written by Margaret Atwood, an author whose name you might be more familiar with if you read novels and poetry, Angel-Catbird is fun, but seems like it’s aimed more at a teen audience. There’s a lack of depth in the storytelling that is so characteristic of more adult graphic novels. It’s also littered with factoids about domestic cats, about indoor versus outdoor cats, about the number of birds estimated killed annually by outdoor cats, etc. Interesting, but by placing them as footnotes throughout the story, they killed the narrative flow and pulled me out of the story time and again.
Still, Atwood and artist Johnnie Christmas set up a classic good versus evil tension, complete with the diabolical genius and the ingenue love interest, so in some sense it’s a classic adventure mystery. Atwood herself says she aimed for a noir, 40’s style mystery, but Angel-Catbird isn’t anywhere near dark enough for a true noir tale. Nonetheless, if you’re a cat person you’ll love this, and if you just like chewing on part human, part animal stories, well, I’d pounce on this one if I were you!