Birdsong/Songbird – yet another fantastic anthology!

Published On March 9, 2010 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Birdsong Track One: Winter 2009

by Will Kirkby, Naniiebim, Nikki Stuart, David O’Connell, Sarah McIntyre, Warwick Johnson Cadwell.

Failboat Press

birdsong songbird cover 2 birdsong songbird cover 1

Birdsong is another entry in what is becoming an increasingly crowded category of beautifully designed and executed anthology titles. With just 6 strips in it’s 80 pages, some self-contained stories, some opening entries in serials, this is one anthology where every strip has room to tell a story, and all six make fine use of the space available, making Songbird yet another classy book that you really should be looking at.

One unusual aspect of Songbird is that it’s deliberately designed to be read both ways – with double covers and stories that read from left to right, and one that reads right to left, manga style, and there’s even one designed to read either way.

It features a mixture of new and familiar artists, including a firm FPI blog favourite Sarah McIntyre and one of my favourite recent discoveries, the brilliant Warwick Johnson Cadwell, whose work I first saw and admired so much in New British Comics #2. But best of all, I’ve discovered someone else whose work I’m loving….

birdsong will pg 2 and 3

(Will Kirkby’s Peckham, hyper-kinetic stuff, bits of Paul Pope, bits of Simon Gane, all gorgeous. From Birdsong 1, Failboat Press)

And that someone is Will Kirkby and his strip Peckham, 16 pages of madcap action and absolutely cracking artwork, reminiscent of Paul Pope/Simon Gane in it’s lines and pacing – and that’s some compliment. Peckham’s opening chapter drops us right into the action, where various magical things are going on, hellhounds being sold to local crooks, magical tomes, and even the infamous Enid Blyton Five Find Innsmouth; “written during the dark years when she was fucked off her tits on toad poison and gin”. Peckham, as you’ve hopefully realised, is fast, smart and mouthy. A great opener.

birdsong nikki 1

(Nikki Stu’s manic energy laced tale – sort of Stop The Pigeon with manga-ish stylings. From Birdsong 1, Failboat Press)

Next up, Nikki Stu with TC. Acorn And Longtail, A Boy And Bird Team. A veritable flight of fantasy with a boy, a bird and a chase to intercept a pigeon that was going so well until the Pixel Moth gets involved. It’s another fast paced strip, with a lovely (if sometimes rough and slightly unclear) style. Packed with potential but just a little bit more control and idea of what she wants to do with the strip and Nikki’s onto a winner.

birdsong dave pg 1

(David O’Connel’s opener to his 2 pager Little Fish. From Birdsong 1, Failboat Press)

David O’Connell’s short 2 pager Little Fish is a quick, simple tale of a couple of sentimental crooks about to rob the local aquarium. The only complaint is that I wanted more. Whilst mentioning O’Connell I should point out that you should be following his great scifi, pulp, steampunk, adventure Tozo comic.

birdsong sarah pg 2

(The marvellous Sarah McIntyre with Thames Reach from Birdsong 1, Failboat Press)

Then we get Sarah McIntyre’s Thames Reach which sees a lonely girl wandering around her bit of London and being chosen as a final resting place by a terminal pigeon. Just 4 pages, but I shouldn’t have to tell you by now that I think Sarah McIntyre’s one of the most naturally talented young cartoonists I’ve seen for ever such a long time. That her art is so gorgeously expressive and so mature belies the fact that she’s only been doing this comics lark properly for a few years. Thames Reach is a beautiful, sad little thing of a comic – in just two pages she sketches a sad, lonely character and only adds a little bit of comedy with the inclusion of a dying pigeon. So nicely done.

birdsong wjc page 1 birdsong wjc page 16

(The first & last pages from Defenders Of Albion by Warwick Johnson Cadwell,  but because the strips designed to be read either way – a palindromatic comic – it could be last and first. But whatever it is, I think it’s gorgeous. From Birdsong 1, Failboat Press)

And then along comes Warwick Johnson Cadwell with his Defenders Of Albion strip. It’s intended to be an ongoing strip but this first 16 pages is a mere preview, constructed oh so cleverly as a palindromatic comic, to be read either way. Packed with expression, emotion and incredible artwork it’s got very little story but introduces us to a schoolboy’s introverted life and the world of Albion that may, or may not, be a figment of the boy’s fantasy life. The Palindromic thing is a cute, clever trick, but WJC’s strip is great without it.

birdsong ginnel pg 2

(Ginnel by Naniiebim, done in proper manga style, reading right to left,  from Birdsong 1, Failboat Press)

The final strip in Birdsong is actually the first and only strip in Songbird, designed that way so that Naniiebim’s Ginnel can be presented back to front and left to right in proper manga fashion. The artwork is good; open, rough lines, but lacking focus and the storytelling suffers meaning that 16 pages fly by a little too fast. A boy wakes up, injured and bloody, in a narrow, fenced-in alleyway that seems to loop round on itself in endless repetition. Where the hell is he, why, and most importantly how’s he going to get out? Perhaps the freaky girl who comes along snacking on the snails she’s catching can help? It’s certainly intriguing, but all over too quickly. One to revisit next time and see if it improves.

All in all, six strips, six good reads, with three; Kirkby, WJC and McIntyre’s that were wonderful. That’s a fine, fine bit of quality control. Birdsong issue 2 will be out sometime later in the year. Looking forward to it already.

Birdsong is available to buy from the Etsy store. It’s ever so worth it. And if you want to buy it direct get in touch – contact email is failboatpress@googlemail.com which is also their paypal email as well, the book will set you back just £5 with £1.20 p&p. There’s also a Birdsong blog with works in progress – well worth a look.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

5 Responses to Birdsong/Songbird – yet another fantastic anthology!

  1. Will Kirkby says:

    Oh just to say thanks for a great review!

    Though the email address is failboatpress@googlemail.com

  2. Matt Badham says:

    It is indeeed a cracking anthology. Picked up a copy at Gosh and thoroughly enjoyed it.

  3. Adam Cadwell says:

    I picked this up at the Alt Press Fair in London a few weeks back, and was stunned to see a spine bound anthology with 2 (2!) spot varnish covers for just £5. Not to mention the high quality of art and writing within. Well worth a purchase.

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