Review: Little Bird (2019) by Darcy van Poelgeest & Ian Bertram

Little Bird is a beautifully drawn limited comic series set in a dystopian future of the North American continent, and has a rather standard rebels versus evil empire storyline, complete with young saviour figures that makes the story very reminiscent of Star Wars and Frank Herbert’s Dune. It also has the sort of hidden/not-so-hidden metaphorical political stances that mark it clearly as a comic written in the 2020s. 

Little Bird is a young girl, born as the daughter of rebel leaders in an outpost in the Canadian Rockies. America has been taken over by fundamentalists and transformed into a theocratic dictatorship, the Holy Empire of the United Nations of America, ruled by the Bishop from his seat of power in the New Vatican. This is an age of rampant genetic modification – mutants and so on. The story opens with an attack by Bishop’s cloned crusader armies on the village of little bird, and her mother, the local rebel leader, is captured. Little bird is sent into hiding, and has been given a mission: free the powerful mutant The Axe from a penitentiary for genetically modified beings. The Axe, a huge grizzled, bearded man with the flag of Canada on his shirt in the shape of an axe, is nigh immortal. He’s mutated with a Resurrection Gene, something like Marvel’s Wolverine, and is Little Bird’s grandfather.

While the Christian fundamentalists have started their evil empire, the rebels reach back to a culture and spirituality closer to the Canadian First Nations. Little Bird has a cute little owl companion, and her resurrection gene powers are interpreted as her being part of the fields, mountains, rivers; part of the land, but also as something feminine. There is an artfully drawn scene in which Little Bird is resurrected, using dreamlike imagery of a womb and eggs, evoking feminine powers, and her crawling out of the ground back to life is drawn as her emerging from a birth canal. It also evokes shamanistic spirit walking. Her lost mother visits her in those dreams, giving advice, like a shared consciousness through the female line like in Dune. 

Meanwhile, also like in Dune with the house Harkonnen, the evil guys have their own child that’s playing a big role. Bishop’s son Gabriel is being groomed as a new leader, and told that he must do things that are difficult and cruel to fulfil God’s mission. But Gabriel tells his father that he prays yet hears nothing, suggesting that the evil empire has strayed from God’s will. The bishops and nuns in this empire are fat, misshapen, afflicted with rash, reminding me again of the Harkonnen depictions in Dune films. All the inhabitants of the empire are sick (I think, it’s unclear) and Bishop wants the resurrection gene of the Axe and Little Bird to cure Gabriel and the rest (I think, but I’m not sure). So, the metaphors of sickness and health, and resurrection, are inverted, with the Holy Empire needing to be saved and the rebels the cure.

There are many violent twists and turns in the story. Many revelations, and quite some things that I didn’t see coming. Which is all good and well as they break the mould of the Dune/Star Wars structure, except that the story isn’t communicated well. The plot moves so fast that we’re not really given the time to get to know the characters and fully understand their motivations. On top of that, much of the plot twists have a supporting narration by Little Bird that is supposed to explain the reasons for the twists that we’re seeing, but she only gives vague profound-sounding speeches that don’t explain much.

In the end, I’m sorry to say, I only half understood what happened. I’m not even sure if there’s a good story hidden in here. The narration got so vague and the events on the pages so convoluted that the final half of the final issue is a mystery to me. Events that could have been emotional, or laden with meaning, remain hidden under chaotic storytelling. The creators prioritised blood and explosions over storytelling, with a high ratio of guts per page, but I have no idea how it ended. Shame, because the artwork is great.

Some final remarks. If you like this future dystopian world of creepy, gross Christian rulers and runaway gory, gross genetic engineering, I can recommend the short comic series Genetic Grunge (2002) by Roberto Bayeto. Also, watching reviews of Little Bird is fun because of how every American reviewer absolutely butchers the Dutch name Van Poelgeest. And finally, if you liked this, a prequel is in the works, called Precious Metal.

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10 Responses to Review: Little Bird (2019) by Darcy van Poelgeest & Ian Bertram

  1. 1omarkhrais says:

    Can you check my website


  2. Bookstooge says:

    I just wrote a wicked long rant about spammers but deleted it since this isn’t my site 😉

    As a Christian Fundamentalist myself, I just laughed at this. Because I wasn’t the one reading it. I’d like to see, even just once, an Islamic Fundamentalist state portrayed in dystopian stories. Just to see if authors can actually USE their imagination. Because it doesn’t take much imagination to do the Christian Fundy thing (as it’s been done to death, aye yi yi). Or if they actually tried to portray what it might look like instead of just making an evil organization and branding it.

    Of course, if you can’t even understand the story itself it makes me wonder just what is going on inside the head of the creators. Maybe nothing?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sometimes, I like to indulge a spammer, to bump up the number of comments, hehe.

      For dystopian Islamic futures, I believe Dan Simmons wrote something to that extent in the years after 9-11. Unfortunately, we don’t have to use our imagination for dystopian Islamic nations; plenty of real-life examples.

      The evil Christian empire is pretty cartoonish here yeah. The New Vatican city is made of only grey concrete cubes with crosses on them, to accentuate the dreariness.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Bookstooge says:


        See, that is exactly what I’m talking about. If authors would USE their imagination, they could do something really odd and different. Islam has a pretty strict Apocalypse theology, so figuring out how to work that out in a future dystopia story could be really interesting. Or show how their theology NOT happening like how they thought affects them. Something original.

        Like you mention, we already see what an Islamic State looks like and I feel that authors simply call it Christian instead of Islamic and call it a day. That’s just lazy.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Could you recommend any interesting dystopian fundamentalist stories, Christian or Islamic? Or do you prefer not to read those stories in the first place.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Bookstooge says:

            The closest I could come would be David Brin’s The Postman and even that is a society coming out of a dystopian event.
            I don’t mind stories set in a collapsed post-civilization setting, but I think of dystopia as that coupled with a loss of hope for any forward progress. So I tend to avoid them….

            Liked by 1 person

  3. ReadRenard says:

    Haha I clicked on this review because I liked the art, but I stayed for the confusion. I either love or hate confusing books. This is tempting to try.

    Liked by 1 person

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