Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Andrei Bressan
Colourist: Adriano Lucas
With Birthright #35 Williamson and the team successfully conclude one of the best story arcs of the series with one of the best issues the book has ever had, effortlessly combining visual spectacle with heartfelt character interactions. Up until this point, family has been a major motif of the series. Williamson has explored the way Mikey’s initial disappearance has affected him and his parents. One of the key strengths of the last few issues has been the development of Brennan’s character. The reader is given further insight into what his life was like in the year when his brother was missing. We’ve also learned that even before that tragedy, Brennan felt like his brother was always receiving all the attention from his parents. While this conflict between brothers is very common, the fantasy elements and the heavy stakes presented are what make the narrative such a compelling read.
The dialogue shines just as bright as the action in this issue, as Brennan’s magic being fueled by his pain and rage also allowed him to have a cathartic release, finally giving voice to all his pent up emotions. Mikey’s response to the whole situation might have surprised some readers initially, but “I love you more than I hate magic” made it clear that his decision to finally turn to the force of power he despised was completely in character. That was by far my favourite dialogue from the issue. The message might have been simple, but the way it was executed made it poignant nonetheless. The writing definitely deserves credit for wonderfully creating a perfect dichotomy, between the way magic is portrayed as being driven by anguish and anger, how Mikey finally uses it for the pure purpose of healing, and how it used from a place of love to get through to Brennan.
I went into this issue thinking that the main battle would be my favourite aspect of the artwork. This is mainly because I prefer how Bressan and Lucas depict the action sequences to the more intimate character moments. My expectations were pleasantly subverted as both of my favourite panels of the issue came from post conflict moments. The first of the two is the panel of a bloodied and worn out Mikey holding his brother in his arms. This is still fresh and resonating in my mind even as I write this review. After everything they’ve just said to one another there’s a sense of satisfaction the reader can relish in as they begin to move past their differences. The road ahead may contain further complications, but the final panel of the issue also shows that that the family unit has come together. Bressan and Lucas manage to make the foreground of this panel engaging, with the steel determination being very evident in the Rhodes brothers’ eyes. Although fans can be forgiven if their attention is aimed at Brennan’s shiny new mage armour. That final image is enough to elicit excitement for what comes next, even without a jaw dropping cliffhanger. This issue is easily worthy of an 8 out of 10.