Review: Werewolves, Witches, And Heartbreak In ‘Birthright #42’

by James Ferguson

Lore has invaded Earth with an army of monsters and magic. Mikey is the only one who can stop him and the tyrant knows that, so he’s put Rook, the man who raised the boy in Terrenos at the forefront of the fight as a symbol of power. With this move, Lore has added more stakes to the fight. How will Mikey react?

I’ve pointed out in a few reviews that family is a key element in Birthright. This book excels when it weaves those elements in and builds upon them. This issue explores Mikey’s adopted family as Rook acted as a father to the boy when he was in that fantasy world, raising him as his own. I don’t think that Rook really got his proper due earlier in the series to the length that he went to keep Mikey safe and guide him in life. This chapter more than makes up for that.
Writer Joshua Williamson opens Birthright #42 with a pitch perfect flashback that sums up the relationship between Rook and Mikey perfectly. You don’t have to have read any prior issues to understand the bond these two share based on this brief interaction. That gives the rest of the comic so much more impact. There are these subtle moves of misdirection as we build to a jaw-dropping final page. By the time you put the pieces together and realize where this is going, it’s too late to turn back. It hits you like a punch to the gut and drives home a lifetime of emotion in a single image.

And what an image! Artist Andrei Bressan has always delivered impressive artwork in Birthright and he’s really upped his game as we head into the final issues of this series. It’s remarkable how he’s able to create tender moments between two characters in one scene and then nightmare-inducing imagery in the next. That’s definitely the case with the witches that brought Lore to Earth years ago. These are sickly, deformed creatures that float in an eerie, connected manner. I get chills just thinking of them.
Then there are the werewolves. Every time I think I’ve seen all the magical or supernatural creatures Birthright has to offer, we get a new batch that terrifies and astonishes. The werewolves appear in the more traditional sense of the monster, yet Bressan makes them his own. They are fierce and frightening and that feeling is only amplified by colorist Adriano Lucas. Their eyes glow with an eerie red light, piercing through the shadows. Their fur glistens in the moonlight as they literally tear through soldiers, sending blood and sinew flying every which way. These are monsters in the truest sense of the word. They even speak in a monstrous tone. Letterer Pat Brosseau gives them a gravely voice with sharp, pointy word balloons.

Where the previous issue of Birthright showed us how similar Lore and Mikey’s origins were, this one shows us how much they’re different. Lore takes any and all power he can, crushing his enemies before him, while Mikey is more measured. He’s more…well…human. This could come down to a difference between nature and nurture. Mikey was raised first by his birth family and then by Rook and their influence shines through in how he sees the world and how he treats others. Lore had none of that love or affection and he’s a monster. It will certainly be interesting to see how this all plays out as we approach the end of the series. If this issue is just a build up to the big finale, we are in for a treat.
Birthright #42 from Image Comics & Skybound is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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