We’ve seen Mikey Rhodes go through a lot since he returned to Earth after his adventures in Terrenos. The government has always been hot on his trail and now we know why. It turns out he’s not the first time humankind has encountered magic. Now the armed forces need his help if they’re going to stop the coming destruction.
Birthright #36 takes a deep dive into the history of our world and its tenuous connection to magic. There’s a lot to unpack here as writer Joshua Williamson does a level set to allow us to fully understand what we’re getting into with the next story arc. For the first time since the series began, Mikey and the government are on the same side, united against a common foe. This changes the status quo considerably.
While all of this is some pretty compelling stuff, it does come across as a history lesson at times. Granted, that’s kind of exactly what it is, but it can be a little dry. The strength of Birthright has always come from the family dynamic and that takes a back seat in this issue. We only get a few moments of this as Mikey’s parents argue with the agent in charge.
The highlight of Birthright #36 is in the flashback to Mikey’s time in Terrenos. It continues his painful lessons in magic with a new twist. You can see the rage boiling inside Mikey and how it gets the better of him. This parallels his actions in the present. Artist Andrei Bressan captures that youthful anger well. Unlike most teenage angst, Mikey has some good points here. He’s the chosen one, but he didn’t ask for any of this. The thing is, he’s in a position where he can cause some real damage which makes him very dangerous on this or any other planet.
The world of Terrenos is always a sight to behold. Bressan does a tremendous job establishing this wide world and all the possibilities that come with it. Colorist Adriano Lucas complements his pencils very well. This flashback takes place in the desert, so it’s full of harsh yellows and oranges. You can practically feel the heat beating down on these characters, which certainly adds to the tension in the scene. This is every bit the fantasy world.
Lucas distinguishes the magical elements from Terrenos from our normal everyday world. They seem to glow with an otherworldly energy, making them stick out when they appear throughout history and into the present. They don’t belong here and it shows.
A great example of this is Ramal, the teacher who was supposed to help Mikey understand and appreciate magic. He literally glows with the magical power coursing through his body. Letterer Pat Brosseau doesn’t use traditional word balloons for Ramal’s speech. Instead, his dialogue hangs in the air in a shining yellow font, like it’s being pushed right into your mind instead of getting picked up by your ears.
While Mikey is being interrogated, Rya is doing some questioning of her own. She’s got Kallista tied up and she wants some answers. Kallista is a nightmare given flesh. She may have once resembled a human being, but her body has been twisted and deformed into this monstrous visage. Bressan made her extra creepy which makes everything she has to say all the more unsettling.
Birthright has some nimble twists and turns in this issue, presenting a lot of cool and intriguing new ideas. It’s building towards an epic encounter between good and evil. Fortunately, Mikey has the might of the government behind him now, but will that be enough for the forces of magic from an invading Terrenos?