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I, Parrot

I, Parrot I, Parrot I, Parrot I, Parrot I, Parrot

I, Parrot back

Deb Olin Unferth & Elizabeth Haidle



"The bad luck is back. I should have known."

Poor Daphne. She does seem to be a bad luck magnet, I have to say. The worst slice being when she managed to lose custody of her young son to her formerly wayward, drunken and failure of a social climbing wannabe of a husband. Well, he used to be like that, but now as Daphne puts it he's...

"Straightened out his act.
"Arranged a space for himself in what he used to call prison and now claimed was a career.
"Found a woman who would police his wicked ways.
"And moved with her and her two kids into the finest neighbourhood supposedly known to humankind.
"All for the sole purpose of making me suffer."

Technically Daphne has joint custody, but somehow the balance has shifted so she only gets to see her son every other weekend in her pokey little apartment. That hardly seems fair to her, but as the judge pompously pointed out to her...

"Joint does not mean equal. Joint means two things that are joined. Those things can be equal or unequal."

Still, matters are looking up slightly as she's found a new job and her lawyer has promised her if she can keep it for six months she might be able to have a somewhat more equal arrangement. The job, though, is being a positive-thought helpline recording assistant for someone who writes Self-Help books... It's a cushy if unrewarding number. Well, mind-numbing actually, but a job's a job.

All that changes, though, when her boss goes away for a lecture tour and asks her to look after her birds at double rate of pay. Daphne's somewhat surprised to find the birds in question are 42 parrots of 20 different rare species worth a grand total of 100,000 dollars. No pressure then. Nor indeed time for an attack of her famed bad luck...

Still, she's bought a book all about understanding the needs of parrots to bone up on the subject. The subtitle of 'Know Your Prisoner' ought to have given her a clue about the author's feelings...

"If you have a parrot, you can be pretty certain this book is for you because anyone with a parrot does not understand him. Anyone who has a parrot is not up to the task.
"How do you think he likes being locked in a small dark box for his entire life?
"Do you think you can do anything other than try unsuccessfully to keep the bird from sliding into crippling, suicidal depression while you slowly squash every instinct he has?
"Failure is all you can hope for."

Well, when you put it like that...

It is useful then that her loving if completely broke boyfriend is on hand to help. Well, try to help. But when an infestation of mites strikes and Daphne is forced to temporarily relocate the pandemonium of parrots (what a wonderful and highly appropriate collective noun!) to her apartment whilst they blitz her boss' house, you can sense that Daphne's fabled luck isn't about to turn any time yet... Quite the opposite...

I loved this work! It made me chuckle throughout at Daphne's disasters and also feel more than a little moved at the injustices perpetuated on parrots (and our other feathered friends) in the name of companionship. Perhaps Deb Olin Unferth is presenting us with a metaphor to mull over...? Or maybe she just really thinks birds should be in the wild and not trapped in cages for our emotional needs.

Elizabeth Haidle provides some sumptuous black, grey and white art to accompany this enchanting tail of chortle-inducing woe. It has a delightfully gentle yet robust feel. You can practically see the stresses etched in Daphne's face despite the economy of line. Clever use of block shading and white space allow for a similar approach to the inking. It's an extremely expressive style despite its seemingly relative minimalism. I also loved her chunky lettering font. She clearly enjoys drawing parrots very much too! One of the most enjoyable comics I've read this year. I will certainly be looking for further works from both the writer and artist.