Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #30 by Drew Barth
I Was Told By
Imagine, as wild as this sounds, that the United States becomes a theocratic, imperialistic super-state that invades Canada because the Lord said so. That is the story-ground that Darcy Van Poelgeest and Ian Bertram set their series Little Bird upon. Little Bird is the story of family and the threads that tie them all together despite the ends fraying, the knots accumulating, and a pair of scissors coming in for the cut. There hasn’t quite been anything in comics that looks and feels like Little Bird.
From a visual and paneling standpoint, Bertram wants us awake. His use of everything from the positioning of characters within the panel, the empty space around those characters, and the panel and bleed-space as a means of conveying time maintains this feeling of unease and dread. Consider the first page of the series posted above. The woman, Tantoo, begins with a close-up and a large swatch of space before moving downward to see her position above her small band of Canadian resistance fighters and then finally down to her daughter, the titular Little Bird. For the eye to track her is one fluid movement, but her concern as a character is focused solely on her daughter. Little Bird is the only character Tantoo looks at in these moments. All of this happens before an explosion of unseen violence and a charred earth left behind.
Violence becomes common throughout the series as Little Bird cannot die in an ultimate sense. The result of that first death is the above page, with its panel-in-panel structure and winding moments of character narrative that become a mainstay anytime Little Bird is killed. These moments highlight the absurdity of violence, as there are moments of Kurosawa levels of blood sputtering for the smallest of wounds. But then what are wounds and violence to someone like Little Bird and her grandfather, The Axe?
Red tendrils that constantly appear. The characters are pulled by these tendrils, but the tendrils are never acknowledged. When looking at the progression of the series covers from one to five, we see the characters eventually drowning in this sea of red. These red tendrils exist seemingly outside the story and bring to mind the bleed between panels as they, at time, grab onto characters from outside of the panels themselves. The tendrils exist as a stark reminder of the past and how that past is something that can’t be changed. They push Little Bird by showing her the mistakes her family has made and help bring her out of a cycle of death and life. Little Bird takes full vivid advantage of the comic medium to tell a visceral story.
In the series’ final issue, Van Poelgeest mentions that Little Bird is only a part of a larger narrative in this world. This is a new, breathing world from Van Poelgeest and Bertram and I’m glad they’re digging deeper into it to see what kind of stories come out.
Get excited. There is always more.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.