Literary icon Margaret Atwood is having a bit of resurgence. Due to recent women’s rights concerns, her most famous book, The Handmaid’s Tale, has been topping the charts, 30 years after its original publication. A serialized adaptation of the book is set to air on Hulu in April and her first graphic novel, Angel Catbird, was just published.
Angel Catbird tells the story of a genetic engineer who has an accident and ends up combining his own DNA with than of a cat and an owl. As a winged cat-man, he finds himself mixed up in a pulpy conflict between a gang of half-cats and a villainous half-rat determined to create a harem of woman-rats.
In her introduction, Atwood reassures us that she isn’t slumming in the world of comics. She references the newspaper comic strips she grew up on in the 40s and 50s and name checks Spider-Man and Wolverine. Unfortunately, it seems like she might not have read a comic since she was a kid. Angel Catbird is filled with silly puns, stilted dialog, outdated tropes, and stiff scene staging. It’s possible that Atwood is purposely creating a throwback to a simpler times, but it doesn’t really feel like an homage. It feels like she hasn’t read a comic in decades and isn’t aware that comic creators and readers have become so much more sophisticated.
If you genuinely yearn for the simplicity and silliness of Silver Age comics, I’d highly recommend taking a look at Angel Catbird. For anyone else, it’s probably a good time to reread The Handmaid’s Tale.