The Mage Mastema makes a seductive offer to Mikey Rhodes – the offer of creating a better world out of the ruins of the Earth and Terrenos. Meanwhile, Aaron and his other son Brennan gather Kallista and venture to the park where Mikey was originally lost. Further reunions occur as Aaron finds his son after his years of absence. But coming close behind are the massed hordes of Terrenos, hungry war and human flesh! What happens next? Find out in our Major Spoilers review!
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Andrei Bressan
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: October 2nd, 2019
Previously in Birthright: Mikey Rhodes was just a kid when he vanished on his birthday, tearing apart his family and casting a shadow of guilt over his father, Aaron Rhodes. Turns out, Mikey vanished into the fantasy world of Terrenos, and apparently found his destiny as the chosen hero to free it of the tyrannical rule of the God King Lore. Of course, not everything is as it seems, as we discover when Mikey makes it home to Earth. And what evil follows in his wake?
ONE KID TO RULE THEM ALL
With Birthright, writer Joshua Williamson has created and subverted in equal measure a fascinating epic fantasy. Mikey Rhodes is ostensibly the one true hero – think Frodo from Lord of the Rings, Garion from the Belgariad or Ged from The Wizard of Earthsea. Taken from his home by magic to the fantasy world of Terrenos, which groans under the dominion of Lore, the God King, he is lauded as the one to bring freedom to the oppressed masses.
It doesn’t quite work out that way.
Birthright #40 fires the starting gun to the last ten issues of the series. Mikey and his father Aaron have their reunion, while dealing with Mastema’s offer to create a new world out of the ashes of Earth and Terrenos. Interspersed are scenes of vivid action magic that bring the issue to vibrant life, even as the heroes fail to see what is in front of them – the massing hordes of the God King’s armies.
Williamson’s writing is well paced, offering a potent mix of poignant reflection with escalating action. Mastema’s offer is tantalizing, after all the suffering the protagonists have faced – but Williamson cleverly shows how the characters refuse to fall into line, realizing that to accept would mean all their previous suffering and privations were for naught. And he builds up to a crashing finale, when the dynamics of the group collapse and Samael attacks Mastema, resulting in a rolling apocalypse in the form of the invading armies of Terrenos.
It would be a crying shame to ignore the sterling work of artist Andrei Bressan and colorist Adriano Lucas. The realism Bressan brings to the artwork, especially the characters, helps ground the ‘real’ in the fantastical, with strong results. His panel layout helps moderate the pace of the story, with smaller panels allowing for a haunting reunion between father and son, giving it the space to allow a real sense of emotion to flow from the page.
Most striking is Lucas’ coloring. In a world of magic, colors are essential to convey the vividness of the unreal. Colors fume and fizz of characters as spells coruscate through the air. Mikey’s transformation from boy to man demonstrates this, as a cloud of magic lifts into the air from him, denoting his magical transformation. Elsewhere, especially in the scenes in the park, Lucas helps create breathtaking light effects, as honey colored sunlight pours through the clouds, spotlighting characters. Bressan’s art and Lucas’ colors come to the fore in Mastema’s transformation, in a striking splash page that has so many different elements the kind reader will linger to take it all in.
BOTTOM LINE: A MODERN DAY FANTASY EPIC
Birthright #40 sets the stage for the final chapters of this thrilling saga, which has adopted all the tropes that has made fantasy great, while subverting them in entertaining and provoking ways. Williamson deftly handles the different characters and their motivations, weaving them into a seamless, entertaining whole.
Birthright #40 balances emotional heft with all out action, expertly paced and beautifully illustrated and colored. There are few fantasy themed comics on the market at the moment, and even fewer that are as well handled as this series.