Birthright #29 opens with a literal train wreck. The Rhodes family was fleeing into the mountains to find a temple that could possibly rid Mikey of the Nevermind from Lore when they were attacked. They are fortunate to be alive, but others aboard the train were not as lucky. This family has to pull together once more if they want to save Mikey.
While all this is going on in the present, Mikey’s grandfather, Samuel is searching through the warrior’s memories for answers. He wants to know why Mikey allowed this to happen to himself. This is something we’ve wondered since Birthright began. He was the Chosen One for the land of Terranos. He was supposed to rid the world of Lore and save everyone, but when the time came to do so, he failed. Now he’s back in our world and Lore’s along for the ride, ready to step in and take over.
Family has been a driving factor in Birthright every step of the way. That plays into Mikey’s reasoning in some heartbreaking scenes. He was whisked away to Terranos where he got to play out all kinds of adventures. Meanwhile, his family back home was falling apart as his mother accused his father of murder. Divorce was imminent and Mikey’s older brother, Brennan was stuck in the middle. Lore used these images to manipulate Mikey.
Artist Andrei Bressan produces some of the most incredible and emotional images put to paper. Mikey’s first look at his father is a full-page spread of the man standing on a cliffside in the evening with a noose in his hand. He blames himself for Mikey’s disappearance and despite his best efforts to find his son, he sees no other way to end the pain. It’s tough to watch and it’s even tougher for Mikey since he’s looking on, powerless to do anything about it.
Mikey and Lore are shown as translucent red specters, unseen by those in our world. There’s a slight haze around them, as if they could fade away entirely at any moment. The emotion comes to a head when he’s overcome and reaches out to embrace his parents. His image becomes smoky and almost seems to fall apart, as if this vision cannot contain his despair.
Contrast these images of sadness with those of relief in the present as the Rhodes family takes stock of their surroundings. The train is in flames nearby. They’re battered and bloodied, but they have each other. They take comfort in that as they soldier on, driven by their love for Mikey and willing to go to great lengths to keep their boy safe.
Bressan has a talent for big, extravagant settings and the temple in the mountains is one such example. It’s shown in a double-page spread that shows just how massive and intimidating the structure is. There is an otherworldly quality to it, like it’s made of flesh and muscle, with walkways and stairs floating in the air around it. This is one of those images that you can just sit back and marvel at for some time. Someone sat down and drew this all out and that’s pretty impressive.
You might pick up Birthright for an epic fantasy story, and you’ll definitely get that. What you’ll stay for is the compelling story of family and how far these people will go for someone they love. Writer Joshua Williamson has crafted something very special with this book.