The wasteland - for something so bleak and inhospitable, it is certainly well tread these days. I suppose it's no wonder considering how mundane modern life can be. The drive to work would be considerably more interesting with a bandit attack or two. At the same time, being savaged by a mutated monster doesn't seem particularly enjoyable. Luckily, I do not live in the world of The Birdlander.
The Birdlander is a tale of survival, revenge and a whole lotta hype. We are introduced to the lone wolf, dreadlocked, motorcycle ridin' protagonist, Sumi, who is making her way across the Drylands to East Astrubellum. She breaks bread with a cautious and alarmingly well-armed encampment of former slaves led by their matriarch Mia. The hosts are shocked to find out Sumi is traveling with a “dragon”, which, in the Birdlander mythos, appears to be any lizard ranging in size from gecko to gargantuan. The latter serves as a mount to the enigmatic Birdlander, whose tale is regaled to Sumi and some eager urchins over stew. A desert folk hero could not ask for a better hype-man than Mia, who spins a yarn of blazing beam cannons, Dragonman dukes and savage slaver slaying. Issue one wraps up with Sumi repaying Mia for the story and revealing her true intentions.
This is the first installment of a five-part series and sets up the story nicely. Mia's reverence for the Birdlander, coupled with the larger than life tale of his heroism baits the reader for the twist and helps firmly set the hook for the rest of the series. The post apocalyptic setting offers a classic mix of familiar modern tech, mysterious future tech and monstrosities like the Dragonman. Considering men and dragons exist as discreet species, this certainly puts a less romantic spin on a “Mother of Dragons”. I will give the writer the benefit of the doubt and assume the origin of Dragonmen along with the other colorful denizens of this dystopia will be explained in future installments.
Gritty is the word called to mind by The Birdlander's art. The pages are presented in broad stroked shades of gray with speckles strewn across the panels. These abstract elements establish an entropic environment for the more detailed characters and made me feel like I should have been wearing goggles while reading. I thought the figures were a bit inconsistent, but the fact that I found the stew serving panels as intriguing as the action panels is a testament to the artist's ability.
There is a lot to like about The Birdlander (especially if you felt Mad Max didn't have enough giant lizards). The art and tone are aligned, the narrative flows smoothly and the conclusion is compelling. However, I do not feel The Birdlander does enough to differentiate itself from a crowded field of post apocalyptic literature. It is a familiar tale of revenge elevated by the unique art style. Then again this is the first issue. Who knows what awaits Sumi in the desert or beyond? I, for one, am excited to find out.
The Birdlander #1 Writer & Lettering: Aaron Walther Artist: Ed Bickford Price: Free Release Date: 1/18/16 Format: 5 Part Digital Mini-Series Website