"Birthright #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Joshua Williamson
Illustrated by Andrei Bressan
2014, 40 Pages, $2.99
Comic released on October 8th, 2014
I'm a child of the '80s, so I grew up with some of the best movies ever made. Sorry, it's just a fact. As a kid I was exposed to a wide variety of films in which a young child goes off and has an adventure in a fantasy world, such as The Neverending Story, Labyrinth, and The Goonies. It seemed totally normal for a boy and his friends to go on these wild escapades with live-threatening dangers. The movies never got into what happened once the kids came back home though. Did they just go back to school the next day after vanquishing a great evil? Creators Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan explore this idea and more in Birthright, their new comic from Image through the Skybound imprint.
Birthright begins dissecting the tropes of these films right away. The opening pages show a young boy named Mikey playing catch with his father in the park. It's his birthday and his parents are preparing a surprise party for him. Mikey never sees it though, because he runs into the woods to get the ball and never comes out. There's no sign of the boy and his family is torn apart. A year passes. His parents are getting divorced. The press is all over them. The cops think the father killed his son. In his depression and guilt, the father loses himself in a bottle. Then Mikey comes back, only he's not the same little kid. He's a full grown man.
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See, Mikey was away in Terrenos, a fantasy land in which he was destined to defeat an evil tyrant. Time moved differently there and he aged about 20 years while only one year has gone by in our world. This instantly presents a myriad of interesting questions about how this seemingly innocent adventure that a young boy had has affected those closest to him. It's something that you never really think of when watching all those movies as a kid.
Reading Birthright as a father provided me with a different perspective on the situation. The opening scene when Mikey goes missing hit me like a punch in the gut. Williamson has a talent for characterization, creating unique individuals that are instantly relatable. I was invested in the lives of Mikey and his father Aaron within the first two pages. This makes the following scenes showing the family falling apart all the more heartbreaking.
The bulk of this issue is focused on Mikey's family and the hardships that they go through. Williamson presents a real-world reaction to a child's disappearance that plays like a true dramatic tale. These scenes are a stark contrast to the bright adventurous lands of Terrenos, where Mikey encounters monsters and other mystical creatures. Bressan's designs for this world are impressive. They're right at home with those fantasy movies that I grew up with.
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Although the monsters are great to look at, what Bressan really nails is the human element. Aaron has a transformation from a put-together dad to a disheveled shell of a man. The moment when he sees his now fully-grown son is touching, as that tiny shred of hope that he's held on to all this time has finally come to fruition. Speaking of Mikey, Bressan has created a warrior that looks like he could stand toe to toe with the likes of Conan and Red Sonja. He's a hulking brute with the confidence that comes with being told you're destined to defeat a great evil and save an entire world.
Birthright is a damn near perfect comic book. It packs an emotional punch and instantly creates a world that I want to explore with countless additional chapters. Williamson puts a great spin on an old classic, looking at it from a different angle that casts the fun adventure films of my youth in a whole new light. Plus, there is one helluva cliffhanger that will have you begging for the next issue.