Originally published as a webcomic, this graphic novel tells a familiar story: Bali, a young boy, discovers a coveted magical artifact, and adventure ensues. In her print debut, Szabla’s meticulously designed pages help this transcend a mundane narrative. She’s a deft storyteller, as adept at putting together ripping action sequences as she is at quieter moments. The star element is the imaginative character designs: the opening showcases hunters tracking a herd of sheep-like creatures with sticks for legs and faces like masks. Later, the hunters battle a bear whose head resembles a Viking’s helmet and whose innards are rocks and twigs. Despite the book’s visual qualities, it’s discomfiting how Szabla fetishizes imagery associated with the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest in her imagined Nuru tribe. She surrounds Bali, who is blond and not a Nuru, with the trappings of indigenous cultures—not out of respect, but because it provides an attractive fantasy backdrop. (May)
Bird Boy follows the story of Bali, a 10 year-old boy, desperate to prove his worth to his Northern tribe, despite his small stature. Banned from the ceremony that would make him an adult in the eyes of his people, he takes matters into his own hands. To prove that he is capable of taking care of himself, he sets out into the forbidden forest and stumbles upon a legendary weapon. Bali fights his way across a dangerous land of gods, men, and beasts to keep the sword of Mali Mani, the savior of the sun, from the hands of the terrifying Rooks.
"Stunningly beautiful, strange (in the best way possible) and refreshingly original. Oh, and that little guy is just adorable." -Mike Mignola
"Anne Szabla's Bird Boy manages to catch that golden ring of design: something familiar yet somehow brand new. In these days of digital lookalikes, it's always a treat to find someone with a own voice of their own, and the craft and the courage to use it well!" -Iain McCaig
"Bird Boy immediately stands out from the myriad of fantasy web comic options through gorgeous art and refreshing subject material inspired by cultures from all over the world." -Multiverse Daily