Jaybird HC Review

Posted September 3, 2014 by Kierra Prince in Comic Books

Written by: Jaakko Ahonen

Art by: Lauri Ahonen

Publisher: Dark Horse

Some of you may remember Jaybird from when it underwent an Indiegogo campaign. The funding was successful, the comic received quite a bit of praise, and it all had some pretty good hype for being a comic about a little bird. Jaybird was ultimately picked up by Dark Horse and gets a well-deserved hardcover release this week.

All the hype behind Jaybird was for a good reason. Jaybird is often described as a cross between Disney and Kafka and I’d say there’s a nice dash of gothic horror within it. The general story is that a young bird lives at home with his sick mother. As he takes care of her she hammers in the fact that the outside world is dangerous and full of “bad birds” and that their isolation is for their safety. This isolation includes boarded up windows, locked doors, and our main character being explicitly forbidden from leaving the house. It’s a story that could have easily turned out poorly had it been written by someone else.

Author Jaakko Ahonen is so in tune with the story and the direction he wants to take that the plot plays out at a beautiful pace. There’s a minimal amount of dialogue but it simply works. We get that gothic horror madness and that Kafkaesque isolation within the wordless panels that also makes us question ourselves as readers. If all we know are four walls, are we really in a position to determine if the mother’s rantings of bad birds and a dangerous outside world are fake or real? And is our little bird hero noticing cracks in the boards of the windows in fear or because he desperately wants to know the outside?

While the story is absolutely fantastic, the art is equally as wonderful and important to the plot. Lauri Ahonen has beautiful art that is perfectly suited to the themes present in Jaybird. Action is often drawn out within series of panels and Lauri Ahonen was not afraid to hammer in the isolation with completely empty settings devoid of any characters. A simple walk down the hall may talk an entire page. Opening a door may take 3 panels. The mother may be shown in a top down view of her entire room, a contrast against the emptiness of the entire house. It’s wonderful and it doesn’t get tiring. Lauri also uses extreme close-ups that border on being abstract. They usually occur during major plot points and almost seem like old photographs as they switch to slightly fuzzy strokes in a black and white style that looks like it was done with charcoal. The main comic tends to use dark colors which is a perfect fit for the gothic storyline. And when there IS light, the warm, bright hues seem unknown and even scary in and of themselves. It’s a great trick to use for a story like this because it makes us feel as if we are the bird himself. The darkness is safe. The darkness is welcoming. Light means danger. Light means the unknown. And it makes all plot points involving light instantly alarming because it jumps from the pages.

Throughout the story we get small clues as to what’s going on and there’s a delight in the form of a spider who seems to almost egg our young bird on as he begins his discovery of the truth. The story stays remarkably though, and that’s wonderful in and of itself. When the story ends and hits its major plot point, it’s something that you’ll never have seen coming and even makes us ask more questions. Although the end is never explicitly stated, there’s a certain number of clues throughout to tell us what’s going on. I legitimately read the entire graphic novel at least 3 times just to search for any clues that I may have missed previously and the story itself never got tiring or boring. There’s something new to notice each time and most of that is due to Lauri’s fantastic artwork that doesn’t shrink away from details while trying to maintain minimalism. The art can also be extremely cutesy (hence the Disney comparisons) but it does more to highlight the innocence of our main character than detract from the story at hand.

Oddly enough, I found myself enjoying Jaybird more and more every time I read it. There’s just too many details to take in upon the first read and the story gets even more foreboding as you understand where and why certain things are coming from. It’s dark and quite sad but then again, that’s exactly why were read Kafkaesque literature right? It’s perfect for the medium and the story definitely earns its place among the ranks of Kafka or even Poe for that matter.

Jaybird is something I’d have no trouble recommending to anyone who wants an interesting story and the artwork is sure to impress. It’s the very example to give when people discuss indie comics and I certainly hope that the Ahonen brothers will put out more. I often like to describe the best works as something that not only I enjoy, but that I can read/watch/play multiple times without getting stale. And seeing as how I’ve read Jaybird 3 times the week of its release, it definitely earns its place as one of the best comics I’ve ever read.

About the Author

Kierra Prince

Was born with a controller in her hand. Fan of all things nerdy and has a tremendous amount of love for RPG's, anime, and anything horror. She secretly wishes to be a mash-up of Catwoman and Sailor Moon.