Indie Comics Spotlight: Angel Catbird, SFC #1, TMNT

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by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

 

Angel Catbird Volume 1

 
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“No, you stay inside. You’re an indoor kitty.”

 
Pets make life better for their owners. There’s an emotional component where the owner gets companionship and a physical component where pet microbes reinforce our immune systems. Angel Catbird Volume 1from Dark Horse Comics takes that notion of betterment to the extreme by merging pet and owner together. The book is written by Margaret Atwood, illustrated by Johnnie Christmas, colored by Tamra Bonvillain and lettered by Nate Piekos.

 
A young genetic engineer is accidentally mutated by his own experiment when his DNA is merged with that of a cat and an owl. What follows is a humorous, action-driven, pulp-inspired superhero adventure-with a lot of cat puns.

 
Atwood gives the reader plenty to unpack in Angel Catbird Volume 1, presenting a protagonist in Strig Feleedus who is every bit as mild-mannered and awkward as Peter Parker is. Moving the events through Strig is a nod to superhero tales of a different time in comics as Atwood emphasizes Strig as the key to the entire story. There’s not a lot of time wasted by Atwood in setting up the other key players and the stakes they’re all playing with and she jumps right into giving the reader a superhero origin story of sorts with plenty of humor mixed in for good measure. Atwood’s dialogue is engaging and somewhat aloof in some regards, but it works very well to set the tone for the story. And the first volume is just that–a volume–that packs in plenty of material to get the reader interested and determined to find out more.

 
The artistic approach taken by Christmas emphasizes the animal characteristics that people may sport. It’s often been said that pet owners look like their pets and that saying is being emulated by Christmas in illustrating the characters with animalistic sensibilities and tendencies. This approach allows Christmas to get creative with the characters and present them to the reader in a way that makes their plights more believable. He doesn’t spend too much time focused on the details of the characters; rather, he instead focuses on defining them with clean lines and a minimalist approach. Bonvillain’s color palette is bright and bold, filling out the world with a lot life.

 
Angel Catbird Volume 1 wears cheekiness on its sleeve, fully embracing the somewhat ludicrous proposition that a man could turn into a bird-cat hybrid because of a chemical mishap. Strig is the lead in a cast of characters who all have their secrets and watching the untangle around one another will be fun. Atwood’s script is light and humorous, adding some levity to what could otherwise be a pretty dour story. Christmas’ illustrations are simple yet engaging, effectively presenting the notion that there’s an animal inside all of us. Angel Catbird Volume 1 is a great start to a throwback tale of sorts that leaves plenty hanging for the second volume to resolve.

 
Angel Catbird Volume 1 is in stores now.


SFC #1

 
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“…stars aren’t born, they’re made.”

 
Wrestling is a fascinating industry that blends together athletics and soap operas in a way that’s endured. It’s rife with heroes and villains and fun storylines that makes for an entertaining watch. That action also makes for an interesting read in SFC #1. The issue is written by Julien Kohlman and Guido Martinez, illustrated by Lucas Perdomo, colored by Marco Pagnotta and lettered by Brant Fowler. “Titanium #1” is written by Marcel Dupree and John Griz, illustrated by Mauri, colored by Pagnotta and lettered by Fowler. “SFC: Secret Files – Mind Mechanics” is written by Griz, illustrated by Vittorio Garofoli, colored by Pagnotta and lettered by Fowler.

 
Welcome to SFC, the greatest show on Earth. After losing 2 of its biggest stars, the organization is forced to find new ones.
 
The concept of professional wrestling serves as the underpinning forSFC #1, in that it’s really about putting on a show. Kohlman and Martinez seem to have a lot of insight into how things work behind the scenes and they supplement that by giving the combatants superpowers. In a way the book feels a lot like America’s Got Powers, but Kohlman and Martinez don’t allow it to become as political as that book was. There are also two backup stories that seem to live in the same universe as the main story, primarily “SFC: Secret Files – Mind Mechanics” where Dupree and Griz pit two i “ndividuals with psychic abilities against one another in a heist scenario. The last story “Titanium #1” is a little more out there within the context of the book, but Dupree and Griz do still focus on those with abilities.
 
The artwork in SFC #1 is very strong. Perdomo’s illustrations blend together elements of superheroes and anime and they effectively capture the action. All of the fighters have their own distinct looks that Perdomo capitalizes on to keep the reader interested in the action both in and out of the ring. Mauri’s artwork is a little more subdued and adds in something of a real-world sensibility to it while Garofoli’s work is a little more in the realm of fantasy. Pagnotta’s colors are bright and vivid in the first story and get a bit more muted as the issue continues.
 
SFC #1 delves pretty deeply into the interpersonal relationships that go on behind the scenes in an organization such as WWE. The interplay between the characters is what really carries the issue and offers plenty of great relationships to explore. The scripts in all three stories are pretty solid and know they want to focus on those relationships. The artwork is pretty varied across the three stories and all seem to fit the story being told. SFC #1 is a pretty interesting first issue that explores the behind-the-scenes action of superpowers and those who fight for a living.
 
SFC #1 is available now.


 

TMNT Universe #1

 
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“This is our world.”
 
If we were lucky enough to live in a world where the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles patrolled the streets (and sewers) we’d all be better off. That scenario is currently outside the realm of possibility so we just have to read about them in comics for the time being. IDW Publishing has another comic to read with them in it called TMNT Universe #1. The main story is written by Paul Allor, illustrated by Damian Couceiro and colored by Ronda Pattison. “Inside Out” is written by Tom Waltz, layouts by Kevin Eastman, illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz and colored by Tomi Varga.
 
When a mysterious new mutant targets Baxter Stockman, it will be up to the TMNT to reluctantly save him. Little does everyone know that a larger trap is being laid by a new arch-foe.
 
The main story in TMNT Universe #1 doesn’t waste any time in throwing the Turtles into the thick of things, with Allor leveraging the enigmatic Dr. Baxter as a catalyst for bigger things to happen. The Turtles are typically able to get out of tough situations relatively easily and Allor paces the issue in a way that gives them a standard battle to fight out of as well as something behind the scenes to contend with. His take on the Turtles is very apt and he does a fantastic job of summing up their personalities–this is evident from the start with Donatello and Michelangelo debating the finer points of the bo vs. nunchuks. The back-up story by Waltz is another look at the Turtles and more focused (on Leonardo), but still captures what makes the Turtles tick. Both stories pay great homage to the Turtles and both Allor and Waltz clearly want to do them right.
 
The illustrations in TMNT Universe #1 are very frenetic and keep up with the action well. Couceiro illustrates the characters with an emphasis on style, presenting them in a way that clearly detaches them from the realm of reality. It’s a pretty simplistic approach that still allows Couceiro plenty of room to allow the Turtles to display a wide range of emotions–some of which are tied to the situation and others which are tied to the specific Turtle. Sienkiewicz takes a slightly harder, edgier approach in “Inside Out” as the characters are given more weight. The colors in both stories by Pattison and Varga are excellent and rely on washed out hues to highlight the panels.
 
TMNT Universe #1 is a pretty solid foray into the world of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Both stories offer the characters in familiar settings, but appear to have something up their sleeves for taking them in new directions. Allor and Waltz both know what the Turtles are all about and craft stories that respect their abilities. Couceiro and Sienkiewicz (and Eastman’s layouts) convey the action cleanly and give the reader plenty to take in. TMNT Universe #1 is an enjoyable read that will fill older readers with nostalgia and give younger readers a glimpse at some pretty awesome amphibians with ninja capabilities.
 
TMNT Universe #1 is in stores now.


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