Created by: Ian Bertram & Darcy Van Poelgeest
Written by: Darcy Van Poelgeest
Art by: Ian Bertram
Colors by: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by: Aditya Bidikar
Design by: Ben Didier
“I’m haunted by the dream. Haunted by the things we do. By the things we say. And the secrets we keep.”
In This Issue: The plan is a simple one: tunnel underneath Northern Guard in a vehicle fitted out with fifty-eight tons of raw ammonium nitrate and blow it sky-high. The Axe will lead the team. Little Bird will remain behind to deal with the soldiers sent to retrieve the drones that came too close to Elder’s Hope in the last issue, and also to ‘dispatch’ the Crusader who saved her life.
But you know what they say about the best-laid plans.
The Hog, the craft designed to blow up the whole of Northern Guard, is apprehended mid-trip by the ship of a scavenger crew headed, it turns out, by an old comrade of The Axe known simply as Sarge. Everything looks bright for a moment until Sarge plays the oldest double-cross in the books and takes the rebellion crew prisoner, to be delivered to the Reverend Davenport for a substantial fee.
The squad of soldiers dispatched from Northern Guard to retrieve the remains of the drones finds their target but becomes one in the process. A team of rebels from Elder’s Hope drives the soldiers to the edge of a cliff and it looks as though they’re about to take them out, but the soldiers engage a U-Blaster, slicing everything within a fifty-meter radius in half. They take their payload back to their transport and attempt to confirm that the data they’re after hasn’t been compromised, but get an unexpected, deathly stowaway instead.
Bishop and his son Gabriel were in Northern Guard with Davenport when the news of the capture of The Axe was broken. Davenport goes to meet with Sarge in Fort Sask to retrieve the prisoner but is himself the victim of one of Sarge’s double-crosses when in the exchange of gold for The Axe the ancient soldier dupes the reverend and frees The Axe, attempting to flee with both Axe and the gold. This doesn’t end well for Sarge. Bishop and a handful of A12 soldiers had been standing by during the exchange and dispatch Sarge, his ship, and his men with one well-placed explosive. A showdown between Bishop and The Axe begins.
While the altercation in Fort Sask was ramping up, Little Bird managed to kill the entirety of the recon team. There is one person left on their transport, however—Gabriel. Their meeting is tense and surprising, but ultimately brief. Little Bird, in an act of compassion, had released the Crusader who had saved her life rather than killing her. This, unfortunately, comes back to haunt the girl. The Crusader takes Little Bird by surprise, capturing her and taking Gabriel back to his father in an attempt to appease Bishop enough to persuade him to grant her mercy and allow her to return to her former life.
Upon reaching Fort Sask, they encounter Bishop’s A12 soldiers using the same fire that killed Tantoo against The Axe. Gabriel is reunited with Bishop but is unable to make himself heard about the situation beforehand because Little Bird manages—even tied up head-to-toe as she is—to exit the transport. The Axe calls up one last burst of strength, just enough to reach Little Bird and free her from the ropes binding her and tell her to run.
But how far does she get?
My Two (Spoilery!) Cents: Van Poelgeest and Bertram deliver another gut-punch of an issue with Little Bird #3. I had an actual physical reaction to this installation—in several places I shuddered involuntarily. I’ve mentioned before how Little Bird always leaves me feeling as though a layer of grime has settled on me, and this issue not only left that feeling in its wake but as it was departing it delivered a severe kick in the feels. There is so much desperation in the world of this book. It makes people turn on each other. Loyalty born of respect is stifled by loyalty for fear of the alternative. Lives are worthless—nothing but trinkets, easily discarded. Casually exterminated “for sport”.
Where you do find love in Little Bird it’s either deeply flawed—the love of Bishop for God—or unimaginably deep—The Axe for Little Bird. Though their interactions in this issue are few it is made abundantly clear that Little Bird is exceptionally precious to her grandfather. When he says what he knows will be his last goodbye we are treated to a panel in which The Axe stands in the shadow just inside the ‘Hog as it drives away from Elder’s Hope, resting his forehead against the closed door. It’s a powerful image that relays an equally powerful feeling. Even more than that, though, is the moment later on in the story where Bishop has set the A12 soldiers on The Axe with the same fire that killed Tantoo, and Little Bird steps out of the transport the Crusader commandeered to return Gabriel to his father. The Axe is already in poor condition by the time Little Bird appears, and he knows that Bishop has nothing but evil plans for her. He rallies, running past Bishop with a cry of “YOU CAN’T HAVE HER!” It is a moment of uncensored love and pain and it resonates so strongly that you forget that what you’re looking at is actually on a page and not happening in your living room.