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JAYBIRD (graphic novel review)

Review by Erin Maxwell
Writer: Jaako Ahonen
Illustrator: Lauri Ahonen
Publisher: Dark Horse
Price: $15.00

Take Wuthering Heights, add a dash of The Fall of the House of Usher and pinch of Disney. Mix well and you have Jaybird, the beautifully illustrated foreboding new book from Dark Horse.

Created through crowd-funding by Finnish siblings Jaako and Lauri Ahonen, the modern fable redefines the term “empty nest” as a small bird spends his life locked inside a dilapidated manor, forced to care for his overprotective and manipulative sickly mama bird.

Surrounded by portraits of long-dead feathered ancestors boasting achievements he can never hope to accomplish, the small bird walks the hallowed halls of the eerie estate, which has long been  boarded up to make sure no one can break in…or out.

Little Jaybird’s life is dreary. Thousands of bells and noisemakers line the halls of the dusty and decrepit mansion, so that the demands of an ailing mother will be sure to be heard by the home’s only other occupant.

This Norman Bates-esque existence consists of attending to his mother’s every need while battling his everyday small-scale fears of spiders, shadows and things that go bump in the night.

Shielding her son from “Bad Birds,” the sickly matriarch has crafted a world for her son filled with unseen dangers, keeping Jaybird constantly paranoid and on the brink of insanity, living in perpetual fear of foul-natured fowls.

As the story follows the tormented Jaybird, the reader gets sucked into his world. As the story continues, one can’t help but hold out for hope, even if it is in itty-bitty slithers, for the winged protagonist.

To get the book made, the Ahonens turned to Indiegogo and the charitable comic-loving masses to make Jaybird a reality. With incentives ranging from digital wallpaper ($1) to having a portrait hang in the spooky halls of Jaybird’s home ($250), the comic found reached its goal in February 2013, after which is was independently printed before Dark Horse came onboard.

A big thank you to all who contributed and making this wonderfully twisted fable a reality.

Winner of Comic Book Finlandia prize, this contemporary tale of woe beautifully mixes the anguish of Poe’s most celebrated characters with an adorable toon charm of wide-eyed little forest creatures. 

Nearly wordless, Jaybird relies on the exquisitely creepy illustrations to tell the tale of the very sad and very scared little bird.

Brilliantly composed, the comic plays on timing and setting to create the macabre tale rather than narration or heavy dialogue, offering panel after panel of gorgeous detail to create the suffocating and stifling world of “Jaybird.”

The dark tone of the comic is also greatly helping by the back and forth of the POW, which switches from Jaybird’s perspective to that of an omnipresent onlooker.

The shifting viewpoints help create a sense of foreboding of the comic, setting up small surprises in the story.

Jaybird is currently available at bookstores, e-tailers and comic book retailers everywhere.

Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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