Sometimes an artist is just too good for monthly comics. When I first saw Nick Derington's art on the recent Doom Patrol reboot, for instance, or Nate Simpson's art on Nonplayer, I was blown away by the level of detail and draftsmanship on the page, but immediately after my first swoons settled in, a second thought lodged itself in my brain: "how the hell is this artist going to hit a monthly deadline?" Simpson, of course, has famously only completed two issues of his comic in eight years. Derington's Doom Patrol saw some delays, but the book was eventually finished a few months late.
Ian Bertram's art in the first issue of Little Bird is like that: it is so mind-numbingly gorgeous, so intensely detailed and vivid and imaginative, that it's hard to imagine how the book will be able to come out on a monthly basis. I haven't been this enthralled with a new artist since Frank Quitely burst on the scene almost two decades ago. It's a European style, very much in the vein of Moebius, but Bertram doesn't sacrifice spectacle for nuance: his characters are just as emotive and distinct as any of the modern masters of character — Adrian Tomine, say, or Emil Ferris.
Created by Bertram and writer Darcy Van Poelgeest, Little Bird is a story of a far-flung future in which Canada is at war with a militaristic Christian United States. A mother, preparing her tribe for war, leaves her child — the Little Bird of the title — in a bomb shelter.
The daughter emerges days later to find her village reduced to splinters and smoke. Little Bird sets out across the wasteland with a few vague directions in mind: "Free the axe. Save the people. Free the north. Save the world."
I don't want to spoil too much of the story. A lot happens in the first issue of Little Bird — it's double-sized for the regular price of a comic — and if you're not a fan of gore you will probably not enjoy this book. But the hyper-violence never feels particularly mean-spirited. There are human beings behind the action, and the violence takes its toll on survivors, just as much as victims.
Maybe, since Little Bird is only scheduled for five issues, Bertram will manage to hit those deadlines. But even if the book winds up delayed by months or even years, I'll be waiting patiently for the next issue. I don't know where Little Bird is going, but I know that like the title character, I'll go to the ends of the earth to see this story completed.