The Axe sets out with a squad from Elder’s Hope to launch a surprise attack on Bishop’s northern fortress. Meanwhile, Little Bird stays behind to defend the settlement. Things go sideways, though, when a trusted friend double-crosses the rebels, setting up Little Bird #3 as perhaps the darkest chapter thus far.
The writing by Darcy Van Poelgeest is gritty, yet highly compelling here. Where our last issue saw more worldbuilding, much of Little Bird #3 is dominated by action.
Van Poelgeest also places more actors on the stage capable of impacting the plot, constructing a richer, more complex narrative. We have the unnamed Crusader, plus a troupe of desert scavengers in the mix, each with their own ulterior motives.
As mentioned, Little Bird #3 is possibly the darkest chapter of the story. Without offering spoilers, we can say the creators push our protagonist and her comrades to the edge in this issue. We know how depraved and corrupt this theocratic empire is, but this issue further underscores just how sadistic their rule can be. One picks up on this as the turning point of the story, though; the moment at which things seem bleak, where we most desperately want Little Bird to manage to persevere.
To offer one complaint: it would have been nice to learn more about more Elder’s Hope here. Despite just arriving at the end of the last chapter, the rebels move out within the first two pages. We don’t get to explore this society scraping by under The Empire’s radar, somewhat dampening the stakes as far as whether or not the town survives.
Overall, the writing in Little Bird #3 serves the narrative well, though. It pushes the story forward, raising the stakes overall and leaving the reader anxious to learn what happens next.
Ian Bertram’s artwork on Little Bird #3 strikes a fine balance between gruesome and fantastical. His designs for ships, technology, and settings are incredibly inventive. Beyond that, the work shows technical ability and impeccable attention to detail. Though backgrounds tend to be fairly sparse, each panel is painstakingly filled with hundreds of hatched lines. Panels blend closely-cropped images with wider, spacious landscapes, while flowing smoothly from one to the next.
One of the strengths of Bertram’s style is how expressive his character designs can be. We see characters so rotten, they appear to literally decay as they speak. With others, you can read the pain or rage behind their eyes.
Matt Hollingsworth provides excellent color work for the issue as well. He employs a wide palette; however, each page is dominated by a common shade, helping the images remain cohesive.
Little Bird #3 further develops an already strong story, adding additional dimensions and taking us into even darker territory. As mentioned in the forward to an earlier issue, this story may not see a paperback run any time soon, so stop wasting time and get caught up on it now.