In our modern era and its social climate, one writer stands out, and that writer’s name is Margaret Atwood. Of her many works, one stands out tallest of all as the work we need in our modern times, relevant to the debates we find ourselves locked in daily and the future we wish to avoid.

That work, of course, is Angel Catbird Volume 2: To Castle Catula.

 

Dark Horse Comics

 

All right, maybe this comic, with art from Johnnie Christmas, colors by Tamra Bonvillain, and lettering courtesy of Nate Piekos, is not the first work of Atwood’s that leaps to mind when thinking about such issues as, say, reproductive rights. But it does feature plenty of other well-disguised political metaphors, and it is packed full of important tips on living with cats, and those are important too.

Volume 2 picks up where volume 1 left off, with Angel Catbird, Cate Leone, Count Catula and the rest of the cat-person underworld planning to strike back at Professor Muroid. Muroid is in turn planning a renewed offensive of his own, including sending in his legions of rat marines; rat spies that can slip in anywhere, and the half-drone, half-rat Drat --- as trenchant an analysis of the nature of modern militarism as you’ll find anywhere.

 

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Everything becomes complicated when, as they do, a Greek demigoddess based on Athena shows up to weigh in with the owl perspective --- sorely lacking, and correcting volume 1’s neglect of the owl experience that’s necessary if a story about a half-human-half-cat-half-owl is going to reach its full artistic merit.

In fact, Angel Catbird’s existence as a half-owl, in addition to being a half-cat, proves critical to uniting the two forces, even as both Cate Leone and Atheen-Owl struggle to understand the fullness of his experience --- as strong an argument for the embrace of intersectionality as you’ll find anywhere.

There is even a lengthy aside into the nature of kitten dumping, sending litters of kittens out into the woods to be killed in a wilderness they’re completely unprepared for, as a were-kitten orphan, dressed like Oliver Twist, shows up. All because the owners of the cat having the kittens won’t take the time to have the cat’s reproduction curbed via spaying or neutering. This may not be the first Margaret Atwood work of fiction to touch on the consequences of forcing someone to give birth, but apparently the message didn't sink in the first time for some people, so here it is again.

 

Dark Horse Comics

 

All this is cunningly concealed and made palpable by the craft, full of heroic figures and vivid colors, and the generous use of thought balloons --- all proud traditions of Western superhero comics. Despite the shockingly relevant politics --- for what says “2017” more than a villain who wants to take over the world and create a rat harem --- it’s all dressed in aesthetics that call back to a yesteryear that feels better than it ever was. The comics of the Silver Age never had paper this fine or coloring this lurid. The style conjures up the feeling of the best parts of the past, to guide us through a present that feels dominated by history’s worst impulses.

Finally, if you’re a cat or bird owner (or the owner of a cat-bird, truly the Goku of pets) there’s a welcome array of tips on how to keep your pet safe and entertained without risk to their lives. The story even demonstrates the importance of these safety tips by having Angel Catbird defeated when he flies into a large pane of glass.

 

Dark Horse Comics

 

The intended message is plain: if you don’t take the time to bird-proof your windows, the birds in your neighborhood may be captured by a megalomaniacal mad scientist half-rat, and who the heck wants that?

Nothing quite soothes a difficult day of keeping up with the unfolding events of our world as much as cat videos, and by getting the reader’s guard down, Christmas and Atwood slip in their subversive political messages, like medicine wrapped in ice cream. You can come for the funny animals and cat puns (there are so many cat puns) and come away enlightened as to the nature of the modern world’s ills and how we all must band together against them.

I’m not saying that Angel Catbird Volume 2: To Castle Catula is an Animal Farm for our times, but only because the answer seems plainly obvious.

 

Art by Johnnie Christmas

 

Angel Catbird Volume 2: To Castle Catula is on sale now from Dark Horse Comics.