Joshua Williamson – creator, writer
Andrei Bressan – creator, artist
Adriano Lucas – colorist
Pat Brosseau – letterer
Review by Joey Braccino
“Are you telling me you’re some kind of… dragon slayer?”
“Among other things. Dragons are easy. Fire trolls are a whole other challenge.”
What starts as an ordinary day in the park for Aaron Rhodes and his son, Mikey, quickly becomes a frightening, vicious trauma for the entire family. And then what starts as an apparent missing child suspense drama a la the recent box office smash Gone Girl quickly becomes a high fantasy comic about dragons and fire trolls and flying demon fighters.
Yeah, Birthright is one heck of a genre-bending comic series from creators Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan.
Immediately, we are thrust into this suspense drama as Aaron loses Mikey in the woods at the local park. What follows is an extended montage of the aftermath of Mikey’s disappearance: the search, the interrogations, the accusations, the depression of each family member, and the disillusion of the Rhodes’ marriage. The sequence lasts about 5 pages, a small portion of this oversized first issue, but Williamson and Bressan capture each moment with a bluntness and rapidity that mirrors the blur of a year that the Rhodes endure. A single panel, with snow falling in background, shows Aaron taking the training wheels off of Mikey’s bike, with his other son, Brennan, asking him why. A simple image, but a powerful one that reveals the layers of depression and guilt and shock that follows the initial disappearance.
Frankly, I would be willing to read the mystery comic about Mikey’s disappearance and the Rhodes’ psychological turmoil; Williamson demonstrates such an intuitive and frank grasp of these characters and their inner conflict that I’d love to see where the story could go.
However, Williamson and Bressan have a different plan in mind for Birthright, as the second half of the book is kickstarted when the FBI brings the destroyed Rhodes family back together for the interrogation of a mysterious drifter. Sporting a raggedy beard, long hair, chainmail, and a sword, this drifter claims to be Mikey. Now all grown up, Mikey claims to have been transported to a strange land straight out of The Lord of the Rings where he supposedly fulfilled his destiny to become a demon hunter and savior to the people.
And all of those year-old wounds that the Rhodes have been dealing with are opened again and compounded with high fantasy.
It’s a bold choice for Williamson and Bressan to attempt to bridge these two disparate narratives, but Birthright delivers on both in spades. The intercharacter drama is exquisitely crafted and paced and Bressan’s dynamic realism shifts between the gritty noirish mystery to the fantasy world of Terrenos seamlessly. Bressan, whose most prominent work is on DC’s Green Lantern, has a distinct flair for merging the human with the fantastic. The first quarter of Birthright is straight naturalism; there is nothing that would suggest the red-eyed demons lurking in the latter half of the book until they pop out of the woods. An enthralling visual treat from cover-to-cover.
Buy. In a comics market saturated either superhero books or fantasy or horror or gritty noir, Birthright #1 stands alone in its ability to merge all of these together into an effective, emotional, engaging story. Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan have a unique story to tell, and Birthright #1 is the perfect start.