DeForge continues to establish himself as one of the most thoughtful and imaginative voices working in any popular art form today ... While Ginni is essentially the protagonist, DeForge’s restless imagination finds him following a number of fascinating tangents. He explores the intricacies of bird society with numerous subplots, such as the passionate love affair between a kiwi and a penguin, along with the misadventures of a stranded human astronaut ... DeForge’s often hilarious, sometimes cutting satire is made more impactful by the sense he’s driven less by anger than compassion for those trapped in absurd, faltering systems. Not to be missed.
A new release from Michael DeForge should be met with trumpet blasts across the length and breadth of the book world ... The first striking thing about “Birds of Maine” is DeForge’s trademark abstraction. It’s difficult to tell what any of his drawings represent without some squinting, at least until you get used to his unique style. Though his compositions nod to the work of great artists, it’s his sly, accessible sense of humor that paradoxically gives Birds of Maine its intellectual payload. Most episodes have the same rhythm as the Sunday funnies, with similarly corny punch lines. This doesn’t only prevent the reader from equating abstraction with the highbrow. It quietly compels her to ask what does, and doesn’t, count as 'serious' art ... As DeForge’s larger story takes shape, the irony underlying his light humor becomes clear. For all its silliness, this is a tale of cataclysm and its aftermath ... DeForge doesn’t seem to have decided how he feels about conventional narrative. The astronaut plotline is one of several that he advances throughout the book, but he never weaves them together into an overarching tale. As a result, “Birds of Maine” meanders more and more in the last 100 pages or so. By the time the book reaches its close, on Page 459, it all seems frustratingly repetitive. For most of its length, though, Birds of Maine is a nicely calibrated blend of the enigmatic and the ridiculous — a blend that DeForge should, by now, be well known for.
Pick up a copy of Birds of Maine to indulge in DeForge’s much-celebrated cartooning. Each page is composed of six panels, and each of these installments arrives with its own impeccable color palette. Flick through the pages quickly and it’s like hurtling through a rainbow or an acid trip. Study them more closely and you’ll recognize the playful Modernism of Miró (who himself took plenty of inspiration from music). It’s also hard to ignore the influence that folk art has had on these pages, especially in some of its representations of figures and the deployment of patterns ... Thankfully, DeForge isn’t above giving us a joke about poo, leaning into the sort of melancholy-oriented humor that is abundant on Instagram, and providing deadpan jokes. There are also wordless pages where he draws attention to the colors and the shapes of the world he has constructed. A cartography of a possible future, if you will. It is not only in the words that DeForge’s utopianism is present, it is as important that we see differently as much as we think differently. The two are in fact inseparable ... If I have one gripe about this book, it’s that the work’s original context as a daily is hard to shake. It’s a big volume, and going through it page by page (as I had to do to review it) made little sense, given how thin the narrative through-line is ... A reader could happily open it at random on different days and pick up pearls of wisdom and humor. At 464 pages there’s certainly enough comics here to keep you occupied in the bathroom / at the coffee table for quite some time ... isn’t pretentious enough to try and provide a Big Lesson; it instead relies on its kindness and humanity (albeit in a non-human form) to get its point across.