Strig Feleedus is a genetic engineer who is working on a big project for Muroid Inc. It’s a super gene-splicer formula that could have a huge impact on the world as we know it. The bad news is that his boss, Dr. Muroid, is actually a half-rat shapeshifter who wants to use the formula to take over the world. Proving to be not very good at the whole hands-on aspect of his evil mastermind agenda (usually he leaves the little things to his rat army), he botches the hit-and-run that would have taken Strig out of the picture. Instead, due to the proximity of Strig’s cat and a nearby owl, the heroic Angel Catbird is created!
If you’re wondering what Margaret Atwood, the creator of high-minded, literate works like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” is doing in writing a comic about a half-human/half-cat-owl shapeshifter who gets caught up in a battle with other shapeshifters like him for the fate of the world, the answer can be summed up like this: Whatever she wants. As Atwood lets us know in her introduction, she’s been a comic fan for a good long while and has had this idea kicking around for a bit as well. While the insight into her personal history as well as the creation of “Angel Catbird” is nice, it’s the IDGAF tone that runs through her introduction that makes it the most entertaining part of the book.
Yes, despite the fact that I’m an avowed cat person, I found the actual story in “Angel Catbird” to be too simple to get involved in. Strig’s difficulty in adapting to his new circumstances and the conflict he finds himself in feels like it comes right out the superhero guidebook. Same goes for his relatively bland love interest, Cate Leone, and the villainous-but-boring Dr. Muroid. Even the art from Johnnie Christmas has a blandly simplistic feel to it that belies the design work that went into it (helpfully documented in the back of the volume). The one exception to all this is Count Catula, a half-cat/half-bat shapeshifter who has fully embraced his vampiric look. You’d think he’d come off as too silly for a series that is relatively grounded in its approach, but his kind of weirdness enlivens every page he’s on. Promisingly, Vol. 2 is subtitled “To Castle Catula!” so I’m not ready to give up hope on this series yet.