Little Bird #3: Only in my Dreams
There’s a revolution to be won, only Bishop’s got the power of righteousness on his side.
Story: Darcy Van Poelgeest
Art: Ian Bertram
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Design: Ben Didier
Publisher: Image Comics
“Little Bird” #3 pits the forces of the divine Americas against the resistance fighters for the first time in the series, with some brutal results. The Axe has a desperate scheme to win the war, once and for all, and Little Bird is to remain behind and defend Elder’s Hope.
And, in as spoiler-free terms as possible, neither goes entirely according to plan.
These kinds of books are rare, indeed. Issue #3 gives a bit more character to The Axe and adds a rogue to the mix. This is a character type I enjoy in particular, because it adds tension to the story while building lateral space into the morality in “Little Bird.” Little Bird and Bishop are diametrically opposed, even if Little Bird is haunted by a role she still hasn’t quite filled, so Sarge’s introduction adds some more character depth and variation. We see more of Gabriel in this issue, and my personal hopes aside, he’s a compelling character with an interesting role to play in the final issues.
The high aesthetic of “Little Bird” matters in a way that will be difficult for other comics to match, much less surpass, in the future. It’s impossible to apply one rubric to the entire medium, but fixing “Little Bird” as a high mark, and as aspirational, is necessary to give the book its due. Van Poelgeest and Bertram nail another stellar issue with their proven brand of careful world-building and intense weirdness. We still see Little Bird’s world in snapshots that are relevant only to the action that directly follows, which lets Bertram go to town on the detailing and deliberate style without needing a concrete function for every pipe, intestinal rope, blood splatter or tree branch. This strategy also provides an archetypal template or mental map for us to fill in at will. We’ll never visit all of the corners of this Canada, and the careful attention paid to what we do experience inspires further musing.
Bertram’s horizontal paneling works nicely in this book, as I’ve mentioned before, and the decision to fill the page with a progression of close-ups in this style, versus inset panels or complex layouts choices, keeps us reading at a measured pace. Layering or overlapping in “Little Bird” is rare, and would do Bertram’s intense detail a disservice. Each panel is a woodcut, with its own symmetry and beauty, but Bertram weaves them into compelling sequential action. We linger because we want to capture everything, not because there’s stagnation. “Little Bird” is an urgent book, but its tension doesn’t diminish even when we take extra time to absorb its pages and its chosen moments.
The agony of the world is crystal clear in Bertram’s line, but Hollingsworth really takes this book to another level. His work always inspires a Moebius comparison. It might seem trite to some, but pastels are hard to use, and creating a dream world that can also support an incredible amount of pain and gore is difficult. Doing this while balancing and enhancing Bertram’s precise, fine details is singular, and shows just how well Hollingsworth understands what colors should do in a comic. There’s an extended scene in the woods in this issue, and without getting into specific details, the alchemy of Bertram’s visual symbolism, combined with Hollingsworth’s unerring ability to pick the perfect blood shade for every conceivable moment, is stunning.
Bidikar’s work is stellar, and it’s continuously impressive to watch him butt balloons and mimic Bertram’s panel borders so closely. Butting is very necessary, as a lot of Bertram’s panels are very narrow and stacked very precisely. Bidikar’s balloon placement matters quite a bit in a book like this, and he absolutely nails it and keeps the book readable and stylish. Bertram provides less of the sound effects in this issue, but Bidikar is skilled at keeping them contained without sacrificing impact, and there are a few that add comedy to otherwise tense moments or ramp up the drama in action scenes very nicely, indeed.
“Little Bird” is an experience that we all need to have, because it’s a book that touches the mystery that is comics. The art is impeccable, the story engaging and horrific, the colors sublime and the lettering ingenious. “Little Bird” #3 drops tomorrow and if you aren’t politely demanding that your LCS bringeth this tome unto your eager hands, you’re really missing out.